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Keywords:

  • Africa;
  • HIV/AIDS;
  • risk behavior;
  • substance use;
  • women

ABSTRACT

Aims This study examined the association between the blood-sharing practice of ‘flashblood’ use and demographic factors, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status and variables associated with risky sex and drug behaviors among female injecting drug users. Flashblood is a syringe-full of blood passed from someone who has just injected heroin to someone else who injects it in lieu of heroin.

Design A cross-sectional study.

Setting Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Participants One hundred and sixty-nine female injecting drug users (IDUs) were recruited using purposive sampling for hard-to-reach populations.

Measurements The association between flashblood use, demographic and personal characteristics and risky sex and drug use variables was analyzed by t-test and χ2 test. The association between flashblood use and residential neighborhood was mapped.

Findings Flashblood users were more likely to: be married (P = 0.05), have lived in the current housing situation for a shorter time (P < 0.000), have been forced as a child to have sex by a family member (P = 0.007), inject heroin more in the last 30 days (P = 0.005), smoke marijuana at an earlier age (P = 0.04), use contaminated rinse-water (P < 0.03), pool money for drugs (P < 0.03) and share drugs (P = 0.000). Non-flashblood users were more likely to live with their parents (P = 0.003). Neighborhood flashblood use was highest near downtown and in the next two adjoining suburbs and lowest in the most distant suburbs.

Conclusions These data indicate that more vulnerable women who are heavy users and living in shorter-term housing are injecting flashblood. The practice of flashblood appears to be spreading from the inner city to the suburbs.