Converging epidemics and the health of people who use drugs: Using evidence to move decision making into action in the context of COVID-19
People who use drugs are stigmatized and discriminated against and disproportionately affected by HIV and other STBBIs and experience barriers to testing, treatment, and care. The COVID‑19 pandemic has already reduced the availability of harm reduction programming and services which provide access to new injection equipment, HIV/STBBI information and resources, and peer support. The COVID‑19 pandemic may result in increased drug and sexual risk-taking for persons with reduced access to their regular supply of drugs and related options (e.g., reduced ability to negotiate condom use in transactional sex, need to share limited injection equipment). The team is comprised of HIV, HCV, and harm reduction researchers, clinicians, legal and policy experts, and persons with lived experience of substance use. Collectively we are interested in responding to the needs of people who use drugs and understanding the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on them and their communities. Project partners include the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the Canadian AIDS Information Exchange. We will undertake a series of knowledge synthesis activities which include reviewing literature about other relevant health emergencies and pandemics which can help us understand how to respond to COVID‑19 and support people who use drugs, bringing together experts to deliberate on the evidence, and producing useful resources for researchers, clinicians and service providers, people who use drugs, and policymakers.