Given the current epidemiological and behavioural risk profile of HIV infection among injecting drug users in the UK, the main strategic task continues to be to develop interventions to prevent the spread of HIV infection.
Outreach to drug injectors is an important part of the wider UK HIV prevention strategy.
This paper reviews critically and reassesses practically the role of outreach interventions among drug injectors in the UK.
It is argued that despite the development of innovative outreach activity, the full potential of outreach has not been realized due to its theoretical orientation and in-built structural limitations.
Outreach has predominantly operated with an ‘individual’ orientation, aiming to work with individual clients to help them to change their behaviour, gain access to services, or to become better users of services.
The main thesis of this paper is that current outreach provision needs to be complemented by ‘community change’ models which seek to engender changes in the social etiquette of drug use within communities of drug injectors.
The paper argues that the social networks through which HIV may be transmitted are the same social networks that may be coopted for HIV prevention.
Future outreach services must turn to these networks as a way of targeting and encouraging changes among broad populations of drug injectors.
Such models might use indigenous advocates, working within social networks, supported by community outreach facilitators.