Reaching and enrolling drug users for HIV prevention: A multi-site analysis
Since 1994, several sites have participated in a NIDA Cooperative Agreement for AIDS Community-based Outreach/Intervention Research Program to examine rates of HIV risk behaviors and evaluate HIV risk reduction interventions among out-of-treatment drug injection and crack cocaine and heroin smokers. We studied the process and outcome of community outreach for recruitment of drug users in AIDS research and education projects in three metropolitan areas: St. Louis, MO; San Antonio, TX, and Durham and Wake Counties, NC. There were two primary areas of focus: (1) the level of accuracy among community health outreach workers (CHOWs) in identifying potentially eligible persons for HIV prevention, and (2) overall effectiveness in recruiting and enrolling persons in formal assessment and intervention studies. We found cross-site and within-site differences in levels of accuracy and in recruitment and enrollment yields. Drug users who had never been in treatment and drug users who had never been tested for HIV infection were underrepresented at all sites. We discuss the factors which may have contributed to cross-site and within-site differences. The findings suggest a need for continued study, refinement, and evaluation of community outreach strategies in order to enroll a broad spectrum of vulnerable groups in HIV prevention activities.