OBJECTIVES: To assess factors influencing access to drug treatment among injecting drug users (IDUs) in two Russian cities.
METHODS: Eighty-six qualitative interviews were conducted with IDUs in Volgograd and Barnaul in 2003. IDUs were recruited through local drug treatment services, needle exchanges, and drug user networks.
RESULTS: Three main barriers to treatment assess were identified: financial constraints, fear to registration as a drug user, and perceived low efficacy of available treatment services. Registration of drug users was associated with loss of employment, breaches in confidentiality. and stigma. Some participants did not think that drug treatment services could respond appropriately and effectively to their treatment needs.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the importance of environmental factors in mediating IDUs access to drug treatment, which might suggest the need for social and structural interventions. Access to drug treatment services should be enhanced by reducing the financial burdens of drug treatment and minimizing the stigma associated with drug user registration. Russia should shift from a highly medicalised model of treatment toward a more holistic approach that recognises the diversity of treatment needs among IDUs. These priorities are especially timely given the urgent need to integrate drug treatment as part of wider HIV prevention responses in Russia.