Gender differences in HIV risk behaviours among intravenous drug users in Catalonia, Spain

Cinta Folch, Jordi Casabona, Albert Espelt, Xavier Majó, Mercè Meroño, Victoria Gonzalez, Maria Teresa Brugal

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To describe gender differences in injection and sexual risks behaviours, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C (HCV) prevalence among injecting drug users (IDU) in Catalonia, Spain. Methods: Cross-sectional studies in 2008-2009 (n=748) and 2010-2011 (n=597) in the network of harm reduction centres. Face to face interviews were conducted and oral fluid samples were collected to estimate HIV/HCV prevalence. Results: Female were more likely than male IDU to have had a steady sexual partner (68.2% versus 44.9%), to have had an IDU steady sexual partner (46.6% versus 15.1%) and to have exchanged sex for money or drugs in the last 6 months (25.5% versus 2.3%). There were no gender differences in injecting risk behaviours. HIV prevalence was 38.7% (91/235) in women and 31.5% (347/1103) in men (p=0.031). HIV prevalence among female IDU who reported having exchange sex for money or drugs was 53.3% (32/60). The prevalence of HCV was 67.4% (159/236) and 73.6% (810/1101) in female and male IDU, respectively (p=0.053). After adjustment by immigrant status, age and years of injection, differences among HIV/HCV prevalence by gender were not significant. Conclusions: This study demonstrated differences in sexual risk behaviours between male and female IDU, but failed to find gender differences in injecting risk behaviours. Apart from that, the higher prevalence of HIV among women than among men, together with a lower prevalence of HCV, provides evidence that sexual transmission of HIV is important among female IDU. Additional studies are needed to analyze in-depth these specific risk factors for women in order to develop appropriate prevention and health education programs. © 2012 SESPAS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-343
JournalGaceta Sanitaria
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013


  • Gender
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV
  • Intravenous injection
  • Risk behaviours
  • Substance abuse


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