New research has linked the HIV outbreak in Glasgow to higher rates of public injecting of illegal drugs in the city.
The fear of getting caught when injecting in public spaces such as alleys, stairwells and public toilets can cause people to rush injections and share needles.
Researchers say their findings, published in the international journal of drug policy, provide ‘substantial new evidence’ for having a safe consumption room in Glasgow.
Looking at data of people who injected drugs, they found almost half in Glasgow city centre reported doing so in public – compared to 16% across Scotland.
Scots who injected in public were twice as likely to be infected with HIV.
The study says this is ‘likely due to the increased risk of sharing of injecting equipment as a result of the complex environmental conditions’.
The team of researchers also found higher rates of hepatitis C among this group.
They warn this could ‘pose a threat to efforts to eliminate [hepatitis C] infection – both locally in Glasgow and nationally in Scotland’.
Public injecting is also linked to a raft of other health concerns. Hurried injections can cause ‘missed hits’ that can lead to abscesses or overdose – often in locations where someone might not be discovered immediately.
The authors, from Glasgow Caledonian university, the NHS, the university of Glasgow and the West of Scotland Specialist Virology Centre, say:
“The status quo harm reduction response is no longer sufficient and new policies and interventions must be considered to prevent these avoidable deaths.”
They add: “Our findings specifically have relevance in the current context in the UK, by providing further weight to proposals to establish the UK’s first drug consumption room in Glasgow and reinforce the need for better harm reduction policies in the UK.”