Sex-specific differences in circumstances of initiation into injecting-drug use among young adult Latinos in Harlem, New York City

Theresa Diaz, David Vlahov, Vincent Edwards, Sally Conover, Edgar Monterroso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Data are limited that examine circumstances of initiation and risk for HIV infection among Latino injecting-drug users (IDUs) in the United States. Methods: Baseline data were obtained from a cohort study of young (aged 18-29 years) IDUs residing in Harlem, New York City, conducted during 1997-1999. Participants were administered standardized face-to-face interviews. Data collected included demographics, age and circumstances surrounding initiation of injecting-drug use, and lifetime and recent risk behaviors. Results: Of the 156 participants who self-identified as Latino, 145 (94%) were Puerto Rican, 112 (72%) were male, and 44 (28%) were female. The median number of years of injecting drug use was 3 for women and 5 for men (Wilcoxon ranks sums test p = .007). Significantly (p <.05) more women than men reported that at the first injection episode, they were injected by a sexual partner (26% versus 4%), were provided the syringe by their sexual partner (24% versus 4%), had sex with the initiator after being injected the first time (23% versus 5%), and were injected by a person ≥5 years older than themselves (50% versus 32%). Women were more likely than men to report having ever had unprotected sex with a person known to be HIV-positive (18% versus 4%, respectively; p = .006); however, women were just as likely as men to report having ever injected drugs with a person known to be HIV-positive (11% versus 10%). Conclusions: Latinas were more likely than their male counterparts to be initiated either directly (being injected) or indirectly (being provided a syringe) into injecting-drug use by their sexual partner. HIV and drug use prevention programs for Latinas in Harlem must address the interrelationship between drug use and sexual relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-122
Number of pages6
JournalAIDS and Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes



  • Drug use initiation
  • Gender differences
  • Hispanic
  • HIV
  • Injecting-drug use
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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