Open Access Open Badges Research article

Comparing sexual risks and patterns of alcohol and drug use between injection drug users (IDUs) and non-IDUs who report sexual partnerships with IDUs in St. Petersburg, Russia

Nadia Abdala1*, Edward White1, Olga V Toussova2, Tatiana V Krasnoselskikh2, Sergei Verevochkin2, Andrei P Kozlov2 and Robert Heimer1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA

2 The Biomedical Center, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:676  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-676

Published: 5 November 2010



To date, the great majority of Russian HIV infections have been diagnosed among IDUs and concerns about the potential for a sexual transmission of HIV beyond the IDU population have increased. This study investigated differences in the prevalence of sexual risk behaviors between IDUs and non-IDUs in St. Petersburg, Russia and assessed associations between substance use patterns and sexual risks within and between those two groups.


Cross-sectional survey data and biological test results from 331 IDUs and 65 non-IDUs who have IDU sex partners were analyzed. Multivariate regression was employed to calculate measures of associations.


IDUs were less likely than non-IDUs to report multiple sexual partners and unprotected sex with casual partners. The quantity, frequency and intensity of alcohol use did not differ between IDUs and non-IDUs, but non-IDUs were more likely to engage in alcohol use categorized as risky per the alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT-C). Risky sexual practices were independently associated with monthly methamphetamine injection among IDUs and with risky alcohol use among non-IDUs. Having sex when high on alcohol or drugs was associated with unprotected sex only among IDUs.


Greater prevalence of sexual risk among non-IDUs who have IDU sex partners compared to IDUs suggests the potential for sexual transmission of HIV from the high-prevalence IDU population into the general population. HIV prevention programs among IDUs in St. Petersburg owe special attention to risky alcohol use among non-IDUs who have IDU sex partners and the propensity of IDUs to have sex when high on alcohol or drugs and forgo condoms.