Fishing, injection drug use and HIV risk

The association between psychosocial and structural-level stressors and HIV injection drug risk behavior among Malaysian fishermen: a cross-sectional study.

Michalopoulos LM, Jiwatram-Negron T, Choo MK, Kamarulzaman A, El-Bassel N. BMC Public Health. 2016 Jun 2;16(1):464. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3125-7.

Background: Malaysian fishermen have been identified as a key-affected HIV population with HIV rates 10 times higher than national rates. A number of studies have identified that psychosocial and structural-level stressors increase HIV injection drug risk behaviors. The purpose of this paper is to examine psychosocial and structural-level stressors of injection drug use and HIV injection drug risk behaviors among Malaysian fishermen.

Methods: The study employs a cross-sectional design using respondent driven sampling methods. The sample includes 406 fishermen from Pahang state, Malaysia. Using multivariate logistic regressions, we examined the relationship between individual (depression), social (adverse interactions with the police), and structural (poverty-related) stressors and injection drug use and risky injection drug use (e.g.., receptive and non-receptive needle sharing, frontloading and back-loading, or sharing drugs from a common container).

Results: Participants below the poverty line had significantly lower odds of injection drug use (OR 0.52, 95 % CI: 0.27-0.99, p = 0.047) and risky injection drug use behavior (OR 0.48, 95 % CI: 0.25-0.93, p = 0.030). In addition, participants with an arrest history had higher odds of injection use (OR 19.58, 95 % CI: 9.81-39.10, p < 0.001) and risky injection drug use (OR 16.25, 95 % CI: 4.73-55.85, p < 0.001). Participants with depression had significantly higher odds of engaging in risky injection drug use behavior (OR 3.26, 95 % 1.39-7.67, p = 0.007). Focusing on participants with a history of injection drug use, we found that participants with depression were significantly more likely to engage in risky drug use compared to participants below the depression cutoff (OR 3.45, 95 % CI: 1.23-9.66, p < 0.02).

Conclusions: Findings underscore the need to address psychosocial and structural-level stressors among Malaysian fishermen to reduce HIV injection drug risk behaviors.

Abstract [1]  Full-text [free] access  [2]

Editor’s notes: There is an increasing amount of research on high rates of HIV infection among people living in fishing communities in parts of Africa and Asia. There is also a lot of information on factors which put people in these fishing communities at risk of HIV infection. This paper is, however, the first study to look in detail at the association between risky injection drug use behaviours and HIV among fishermen. The authors of this fascinating and important paper provide a detailed analysis on the association between, what they call, individual, social and structural factors which contribute to risk. Interestingly, poorer fishermen were at less risk than fishermen who were better off, perhaps because poorer men could not afford the costs of injection drugs. However, the fear of the police, and the risk of arrest, resulted in injection practices which increased the risk of HIV infection. The authors note that the association between symptoms of depression and risky injection drug use may be an outcome of this behaviour rather than the cause. The authors highlight how fishermen using injection drugs to manage stress and risk in their lives, may compound the stress they face by this behaviour. The paper illustrates, very clearly, the complex relationship there often is between individual behaviours and the structural and social context. The authors provide very useful pointers for unpacking risk and HIV-infection in other similar populations. 

Asia [7]
Malaysia [8]
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