- 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Alameda Health System, Highland Hospital, Oakland, CA, United States of America.
Background: The opioid epidemic has led to an increase in the number of persons who inject drugs, and this population accounts for 12% of new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and 60% of new hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in the United States annually. While persons who inject drugs disproportionately utilize the emergency department (ED), accurate data is lacking on the prevalence and patterns of injection drug use, and prevalence of co-occurring HIV and HCV infections among ED patients.
Objective: The primary outcome was to assess the prevalence of injection drug use and co-occurring HIV and HCV infection among patients presenting to an urban ED.
Methods: This was a cross sectional study conducted at an urban ED, with an annual census of 65,000 visits. A closed-response questionnaire was developed based on publicly available validated surveys to assess patterns of injection drug use and HIV and HCV infection status, and administered by trained research assistants to all registered adult patients during 4-hour blocks of time.
Results: Of the 2,319 eligible patients, 2,200 (94.9%) consented and completed the survey. 241 (11.0%) had ever used injection drugs, 103 (4.7%) currently used injection drugs, and 138 (6.3%) formerly used injection drugs. White patients age 25 to 34 years and white patients age 55 to 64 years had the highest prevalence of current (25.6%) and former (27.1%) injection drug use, respectively. Persons who use injection drugs had a higher prevalence of HCV infection (52.7% vs. 3.4%) and HIV infection (6.2% vs. 1.8%) than the rest of the population.
Conclusion: A high prevalence of ED patients report injection drug use, and this population self-reports a high prevalence of HIV and HCV infection. Emergency departments are in a unique position to engage with this population with regards to substance use treatment and linkage to care for HIV and HCV infection.