The health benefits of secondary syringe exchange

Sheigla Murphy, Margaret S. Kelley, Howard Lune

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From a process evaluation, participants in San Francisco's syringe exchange program (SEP) are described. Three groups, primary, secondary, and nonexchangers, were interviewed for a total of 244 study participants recruited from eight needle exchange sessions. Fifty percent of all primary exchangers exchanged for one or more injecting drug user(s) (IDUs). Three general routes of syringe distribution were identified between primary and secondary exchangers: between close friends and lovers; for people who lived in close proximity to them; and with customers who bought drugs from them. Focusing on why some go to SEPs and why some rely on others to go for them, findings are summarized primarily as the barriers for not attending SEPs, including exposure, legal status, illness, drug lifestyle, and conflicts with service provision. The secondary exchangers had similar risk reduction profiles to the SEP users that overall were better than the nonexchangers. For example, they shared syringes and cookers significantly fewer times than nonexchangers. The results demonstrate that these client-provided exchanges enable the SEP to overcome injection drug users' obstacles to program attendance, thereby reaching even hard to access members of IDU populations. We found the effects of these client-provided services to be positive for the larger IDU population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-268
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Drug Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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