Courtney A McKnight
Clinical Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Dr. Courtney McKnight is a Principal Investigator specializing in mixed methods research focused on the epidemiology of drug use, opioid overdose, HIV and HCV infection. Dr. McKnight has over 20 years of experience conducting public health research related to drug use, as well as field experience as a harm reduction service provider.
Prior to joining NYU, Dr. McKnight served as the assistant director of research at the Chemical Dependency Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she was an investigator and project director on numerous federally funded research studies, including evaluations of syringe services programs; investigations of the drivers that contribute to disparate rates of HIV and HCV; and interventions to increase access to HIV and HCV testing and care.
Previous to Dr. McKnight’s work in research, she directed a harm reduction program for women who use drugs and volunteered at a syringe services program in New Jersey.
Dr. McKnight received her DrPH from the City University of New York Graduate Center, her Master of Public Health from Hunter College, and her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Rutgers University. Her dissertation examined the impact of Medicaid coverage of methadone and buprenorphine on treatment access for opioid dependent beneficiaries.
Dr. McKnight’s current research interests include examining the shifting landscape of illicit opioids, including the increasing prevalence of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, and risk environments of people who use drugs.
BA, Women's Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJMPH, Community Health Education, Hunter College, New York, NYDrPH, The City University of New York, New York, NY
Behavioral ScienceDrug addictionEpidemiologyHarm reductionHepatitisHIV/AIDSInfectious DiseasesMixed-Methods ResearchOpioidQualitative ResearchSocial epidemiologySubstance Abuse
Modeling HIV transmission among persons who inject drugs (PWID) at the “End of the HIV Epidemic” and during the COVID-19 pandemicJarlais, D. D., Bobashev, G., Feelemyer, J., & McKnight, C. (n.d.).
Journal titleDrug and alcohol dependence
Volume238AbstractBackground: We explore injecting risk and HIV incidence among PWID in New York City (NYC), from 2012 to 2019, when incidence was extremely low, <0.1/100 person-years at risk, and during disruption of prevention services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We developed an Agent-Based model (ABM) to simulate sharing injecting equipment and measure HIV incidence in NYC. The model was adapted from a previous ABM model developed to compare HIV transmission with “high” versus “low” dead space syringes. Data for applying the model to NYC during the period of very low HIV incidence was taken from the “Risk Factors” study, a long-running study of participants entering substance use treatment in NYC. Injecting risk behavior had not been eliminated in this population, with approximately 15 % reported recent syringe sharing. Data for possible transmission during COVID-19 disruption was taken from previous HIV outbreaks and early studies of the pandemic in NYC. Results: The modeled incidence rates fell within the 95 % confidence bounds of all of the empirically observed incidence rates, without any additional calibration of the model. Potential COVID-19 disruptions increased the probability of an outbreak from 0.03 to 0.25. Conclusions: The primary factors in the very low HIV incidence were the extremely small numbers of PWID likely to transmit HIV and that most sharing occurs within small, relatively stable, mostly seroconcordant groups. Containing an HIV outbreak among PWID during a continuing pandemic would be quite difficult. Pre-pandemic levels of HIV prevention services should be restored as quickly as feasible.
Recurrent Injecting Drug Use as a Mediator between Psychiatric Disorder and Non-Fatal OverdoseBarnes, D., Xu, V. S., Cleland, C. M., McKnight, C., & Des Jarlais, D. (n.d.).
Journal titleSubstance Use and Misuse
Page(s)1248-1256AbstractBackground: Unintentional drug overdose has increased markedly in the United States. Studies document an association between psychiatric disorder and unintentional overdose; we extend this research through a preliminary test of a causal model of recurrent injection drug use mediating this relationship. Methods: In a cross-sectional study of 241 adults in New York City with a possible current substance use disorder, we conducted conventional and Imai’s mediation analyses to examine if psychiatric disorder is associated with increased prevalence of ever overdosing and if recurrent injection drug use mediates this association. Our cross-sectional data permit the first step of assessing causal models: testing if statistical associations are consistent with the model. Results: Fifty-eight percent of the sample endorsed previous psychiatric disorder diagnosis and 35.7% reported ever overdosing. Imai’s mediation analysis showed that, adjusting for covariates, the total association between psychiatric diagnosis and ever overdosing (adjusted prevalence difference [aPD] = 0.16, 95% CI 0.04–0.28) was composed of a direct effect (aPD = 0.09, 95% CI −0.03 − 0.21, p = 0.136) and an indirect effect (aPD = 0.07, 95% CI 0.02–0.13). Recurrent injecting drug use contributed to 42% (ratio of indirect effect to total effect; 95% CI 12 − 100%, p = 0.02) of the association between psychiatric diagnosis and ever overdosing. Conventional mediation analysis produced similar results. Conclusions: Our results provide a warrant for taking the necessary next step for assessing a causal model using longitudinal data, potentially providing a strong rationale for intervening on psychiatric disorders to stem overdose.
Thick trust, thin trust, social capital, and health outcomes among trans women of color in New York CityHwahng, S. J., Allen, B., Zadoretzky, C., Barber Doucet, H., McKnight, C., & Des Jarlais, D. (n.d.).
Journal titleInternational Journal of Transgender Health
Page(s)214-231AbstractIntroduction: Many trans women of color communities experience high HIV seroprevalence, extreme poverty, high rates of victimization and substance use, and poor mental health. Greater knowledge of trans women of color social capital may contribute toward more effective services for this marginalized population. Methods: These data come from a mixed-methods study that examined trans/gender-variant people of color who attended transgender support groups at harm reduction programs in NYC. The study was conducted from 2011 to 12, total N = 34. The qualitative portion was derived from six focus group interviews. Results: Two support groups stood out as exhibiting very strong alternative kinship structures. One group was comprised of immigrant trans Latinas, and the other group were trans women of African descent living with HIV. Both groups demonstrated ample cultivation of “trust capital” in the form of “thick trust” (bonding capital) and “thin trust” (bridging/linking capital) both inside and outside/beyond the support groups. Thick trust included the cultivation of intimacy, support in primary romantic relationships, and community leadership. Thin trust included networking with a variety of organizations, increased educational opportunities, and cultural production. Discussion: Participants “opened up to social capital” through the process of trusting as a series of (1) risks; (2) vulnerabilities; and (3) reciprocities. A solid foundation of thick trust resulted in a social, psychological, and emotional “base.” Upon this foundation, thin trust was operationalized resulting in positive material, economic, and quality-of-life outcomes, leading to an expanded space of capabilities.
Is your syringe services program cost-saving to society? A methodological case studyDes Jarlais, D. C., Feelemyer, J., McKnight, C., Knudtson, K., & Glick, S. N. (n.d.).
Journal titleHarm Reduction Journal
Issue1AbstractBackground: While there is a general acceptance among public health officials and policy-makers that syringe services programs can be effective in reducing HIV transmission among persons who inject drugs, local syringe services programs are often asked to provide economic justifications for their activities. A cost-effectiveness study, estimating the cost of preventing one HIV infection, would be the preferred methods for addressing this economic question, but few local syringe services programs have the needed data, staff and epidemiologic modeling resources needed for a cost–effectiveness study. We present a method for estimating a threshold value for the number of HIV infections prevented above which the program will be cost-saving to society. An intervention is considered “cost-saving” when it leads to a desirable health outcome a lower cost than the alternative. Methods: The research literature on the effectiveness of syringe services programs in controlling HIV transmission among persons who inject drugs and guidelines for syringe services program that are “functioning very well” were used to estimate the cost-saving threshold at which a syringe services program becomes cost-saving through preventing HIV infections versus lifetime treatment of HIV. Three steps are involved: (1) determining if HIV transmission in the local persons who inject drugs (PWID) population is being controlled, (2) determining if the local syringe services program is functioning very well, and then (3) dividing the annual budget of the syringe services program by the lifetime cost of treating a single HIV infection. Results: A syringe services program in an area with controlled HIV transmission (with HIV incidence of 1/100 person-years or less), functioning very well (with high syringe coverage, linkages to other services, and monitoring the local drug use situation), and an annual budget of $500,000 would need to prevent only 3 new HIV infections per year to be cost-saving. Conclusions: Given the high costs of treating HIV infections, syringe services programs that are operating according to very good practices (“functioning very well”) and in communities in which HIV transmission is being controlled among persons who inject drugs, will almost certainly be cost-saving to society.
Hepatitis C incidence and prevalence among Puerto Rican people who use drugs in New York CityArasteh, K., Des Jarlais, D. C., Feelemyer, J., & McKnight, C. (n.d.).
Journal titleGlobal Public Health
Page(s)1789-1799AbstractBackground: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality among people who use drugs (PWUD). Health disparities related to race/ethnicity and immigration status also increase the risk of HCV infection and decrease the probability of linkage to care. Effective, curative treatment is now available for HCV infection and, alongside prevention, may eliminate HCV epidemics. Methods: We examined HCV incidence, prevalence and associated risk factors among 5459 Puerto Rican (both PR-born and U.S.-born) and non-Puerto Rican (only U.S.-born) entrants to Mount Sinai Beth Israel drug treatment programs in New York City, from August 2005 to January 2018, to assess the need for HCV screening, prevention and treatment in this population. Results: HCV incidence and prevalence among Puerto Rican PWUD was significantly greater than the non-Puerto Ricans PWUD. Among people who inject drugs (PWID), there was no difference in injection risk behaviours by ethnicity/birth place. Conclusions: Findings suggest HCV treatment is a necessary component of a strategy to eliminate HCV epidemics among PWUD. Findings also underline the interconnectedness of epidemics across regions, such that to eliminate the HCV epidemic in one location may depend on eliminating the HCV epidemics in other locations.
Toward the Interpretation of Positive Testing for Fentanyl and Its Analogs in Real Hair Samples: Preliminary ConsiderationsSalomone, A., Bigiarini, R., Palamar, J. J., McKnight, C., Vinsick, L., Amante, E., Di Corcia, D., & Vincenti, M. (n.d.).
Journal titleJournal of Analytical Toxicology
Page(s)362-369AbstractThe detection of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in hair has become extensively researched in recent years. Although most NPS fall into the classes of synthetic cannabinoids and designer cathinones, novel synthetic opioids (NSO) have appeared with increasing frequency in the illicit drug supply. While the detection of NSO in hair is now well documented, interpretation of results presents several controversial issues, as is quite common in hair analysis. In this study, an ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method able to detect 13 synthetic opioids (including fentanyl analogs) and metabolites in hair was applied to 293 real samples. Samples were collected in the USA between November 2016 and August 2018 from subjects who had reported heroin use in the past year or had already tested positive to hair testing for common opiates. The range, mean and median concentrations were calculated for each analyte, in order to draw a preliminary direction for a possible cut-off to discriminate between exposure to either low or high quantities of the drug. Over two-thirds (68%) of samples tested positive for fentanyl at concentrations between LOQ and 8600 pg/mg. The mean value was 382 pg/mg and the median was 95 pg/mg. The metabolites norfentanyl and 4-ANPP were also quantified and were found between LOQ and 320 pg/mg and between LOQ and 1400 pg/mg, respectively. The concentration ratios norfentanyl/fentanyl, 4-ANPP/fentanyl and norfentanyl/4-ANPP were also tested as potential markers of active use and to discriminate the intake of fentanyl from other analogs. The common occurrence of samples positive for multiple drugs may suggest that use is equally prevalent among consumers, which is not the case, as correlations based on quantitative results demonstrated. We believe this set of experimental observations provides a useful starting point for a wide discussion aimed to better understand positive hair testing for fentanyl and its analogs in hair samples.
Alternative kinship structures, resilience and social support among immigrant trans Latinas in the USAHwahng, S. J., Allen, B., Zadoretzky, C., Barber, H., McKnight, C., & Des Jarlais, D. (n.d.).
Journal titleCulture, Health and Sexuality
Page(s)1-15AbstractLatinas comprise the largest racial/ethnic group of trans women (male-to-female transgender people) in New York City, where HIV seroprevalence among trans Latinas has been found to be as high as 49%. Despite this population’s high risk of HIV, little is known about resilience among trans Latinas that may provide protective health factors. Six focus groups and one in-depth interview were conducted with 34 low-income trans/gender-variant people of colour who attended transgender support groups at harm reduction programmes in New York City. This paper reports on data from 13 participants who identified as immigrant trans Latinas. Focus groups were coded and analysed using thematic qualitative methods. The majority of immigrants were undocumented but reported having robust social support. Unique characteristics of immigrant trans Latinas included alternative kinship structures and sources of income. Social creativity was used to develop achievable ways in which to improve their health outcomes. Resilience was evident in informal kinship dynamics, formal support groups, gender-transition, educational access and skills training and substance use reduction. Individual-level resilience increased as a result of strong community-level resilience.
Geographic distribution of risk ("Hotspots") for HIV, HCV, and drug overdose among persons who use drugs in New York City: The importance of local historyDes Jarlais, D. C., McKnight, C., Arasteh, K., Feelemyer, J., Ross, Z., & Cooper, H. L. (n.d.).
Journal titleHarm Reduction Journal
Issue1AbstractAims: To identify geographic "hotspots" for potential transmission of HIV and HCV and for drug overdose among persons who use heroin and cocaine in New York City and to examine historical continuities in problem drug use hotspots in the city. Methods: A total of 2714 study participants were recruited among persons entering Beth Israel substance use treatment programs. A structured questionnaire was administered and blood samples for HIV and HCV testing were collected. Hotspots for potential virus transmission were defined as ZIP codes with 10+ participants, 2+ persons infected with the virus and engaging in transmission behavior, and 2+ persons not infected and engaging in acquisition behavior. ZIP codes with 3+ persons with previous overdoses were considered potential hotspots for future overdoses. Results: Participants resided in 166/178 (93%) of the ZIP codes in New York City. Injecting drug use was reported in 150/178 (84%) of the ZIP codes. No zip codes were identified for injecting-related HIV transmission, 5 zip codes were identified for sexual HIV transmission, 3 for HCV transmission, and 8 for drug overdose. Many of the ZIP code potential hotspots were in neighborhoods long associated with drug use: Lower Eastside and Harlem in Manhattan, the South Bronx, and Central Brooklyn. Discussion: Heroin and cocaine use requiring treatment were reported from almost all ZIP codes in New York City, indicating needs for widely dispersed harm reduction services. Identified hotspots should be targeted for reducing sexual transmission of HIV, transmission of HCV, and drug overdoses. Some of the hotspots have persisted as problem drug use areas for 40 to over 100 years. Monitoring of drug use patterns in historical hotspot neighborhoods may permit early identification of and response to emerging drug use-related health problems. Persistent historical hotspots for problem drug use present a complex problem for implementing harm reduction services that deserve additional research.
Injection and Heterosexual Risk Behaviors for HIV Infection Among Non-gay Identifying Men Who Have Sex with Men and WomenArasteh, K., Des Jarlais, D. C., McKnight, C., & Feelemyer, J. (n.d.).
Journal titleAIDS and Behavior
Page(s)3315-3323AbstractNon-gay identifying men who have sex with men and women (MSMW) are an important subgroup of men who have sex with men (MSM) and have been underrepresented in studies of MSM that only use gay venues to draw their samples. We assessed heterosexual and drug use risks of MSMW who use drugs in a sample of male entrants to the Mount Sinai Beth Israel drug treatment programs from 2005 to 2018. Blood samples were collected and tested for HIV and HSV-2 infections. Among HIV seronegative participants, MSMW had significantly greater odds of sharing used needles with others, and reporting unprotected sex with female casual partners and female commercial sex partners, compared to their counterparts who reported sex with women exclusively (MSWE). Although not recruited from gay venues, MSMW had a significantly higher HIV prevalence than MSWE (23% vs. 10%, p < 0.001). Interventions that are specifically tailored to HIV prevention among MSMW are needed to ameliorate the prevalence of HIV risks and infection.
Prescription opiate analgesics, heroin, HIV and HCV among persons who inject drugs in New York City, 2016-2018Des Jarlais, D. C., Arasteh, K., McKnight, C., Feelemyer, J., Perlman, D. C., & Tross, S. (n.d.).
Journal titleDrug and alcohol dependence
Volume204AbstractObjectives: Assess relationships among non-medical use of prescription opioid analgesics (POAs), heroin use, and HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) infection among persons who inject drugs (PWID) in New York City, 2016–2018. Methods: PWID (N = 134) were recruited from Mount Sinai Beth Israel drug treatment programs. HIV seropositive persons were oversampled. A questionnaire was administered, and serum samples were collected for HIV and HCV testing. Analyses were stratified by HIV serostatus and compared those who had used POAs to those who had not used POAs. Results: Among the participants, 97% reported injecting heroin, 44% reported injecting cocaine, and 47% reported smoking crack cocaine in the 6 months prior to the interview. There were 66% who reported oral non-medical use of POAs, with 42% using oral POAs in the previous 6 months. There was a clear historical pattern in median year of first injection for different groups: HIV seropositive persons (1985), HIV seronegative persons who never used POAs (1999), and HIV seronegative persons who used POAs (2009). By the time of interview (2016–2018), however, almost all participants (97%) reported injecting heroin. All PWID who reported using POAs also reported injecting heroin. Conclusions: Non-medical POA use among PWID was very common and should not be considered a separate drug use epidemic, but as an additional component of the continuing heroin/poly-drug use epidemic, itself a part of the syndemic of opioid use, stimulant use, overdose, HCV and HIV occurring in New York City.
Being “hooked up” during a sharp increase in the availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl: Adaptations of drug using practices among people who use drugs (PWUD) in New York CityMcKnight, C., & Des Jarlais, D. C. (n.d.).
Journal titleInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Page(s)82-88AbstractIllicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF), a category of synthetic opioids 50–100 times more potent than morphine, is increasingly being added to heroin and other drugs in the United States (US). Persons who use drugs (PWUD) are frequently unaware of the presence of fentanyl in drugs. Use of heroin and other drugs containing fentanyl has been linked to sharp increases in opioid mortality. In New York City (NYC), opioid-related mortality increased from 8.2 per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 19.9 per 100,000 residents in 2016; and, in 2016, fentanyl accounted for 44% of NYC overdose deaths. Little is known about how PWUD are adapting to the increase in fentanyl and overdose mortality. This study explores PWUDs’ adaptations to drug using practices due to fentanyl. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 55 PWUD at three NYC syringe services programs (SSP) about perceptions of fentanyl, overdose experiences and adaptations of drug using practices. PWUD utilized test shots, a consistent drug dealer, fentanyl test strips, naloxone, getting high with or near others and reducing drug use to protect from overdose. Consistent application of these methods was often negated by structural level factors such as stigma, poverty and homelessness. To address these, multi-level overdose prevention approaches should be implemented in order to reduce the continuing increase in opioid mortality.
Cost-effectiveness of hepatitis C screening and treatment linkage intervention in US methadone maintenance treatment programsSchackman, B. R., Gutkind, S., Morgan, J. R., Leff, J. A., Behrends, C. N., Delucchi, K. L., McKnight, C., Perlman, D. C., Masson, C. L., & Linas, B. P. (n.d.).
Journal titleDrug and alcohol dependence
Page(s)411-420AbstractBackground: We evaluated the cost-effectiveness of a hepatitis C (HCV) screening and active linkage to care intervention in US methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) patients using data from a randomized trial conducted in New York City and San Francisco. Methods: We used a decision analytic model to compare 1) no intervention; 2) HCV screening and education (control); and 3) HCV screening, education, and care coordination (active linkage intervention). We also explored an alternative strategy wherein HCV/HIV co-infected participants linked elsewhere. Trial data include population characteristics (67% male, mean age 48, 58% HCV infected) and linkage rates. Data from published sources include treatment efficacy and HCV re-infection risk. We projected quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and lifetime medical costs using an established model of HCV (HEP-CE). Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) are in 2015 US$/QALY discounted 3% annually. Results: The control strategy resulted in a projected 35% linking to care within 6 months and 31% achieving sustained virologic response (SVR). The intervention resulted in 60% linking and 54% achieving SVR with an ICER of $24,600/QALY compared to no intervention from the healthcare sector perspective and was a more efficient use of resources than the control strategy. The intervention had an ICER of $76,500/QALY compared to the alternative strategy. From a societal perspective, the intervention had a net monetary benefit of $511,000–$975,600. Conclusions: HCV care coordination interventions that include screening, education and active linkage to care in MMT settings are likely cost-effective at a conventional $100,000/QALY threshold for both HCV mono-infected and HIV co-infected patients.
Hepatitis C virus prevalence and estimated incidence among new injectors during the opioid epidemic in New York City, 2000–2017: Protective effects of non-injecting drug useDes Jarlais, D. C., Arasteh, K., Feelemyer, J., McKnight, C., Barnes, D. M., Perlman, D. C., Uuskula, A., Cooper, H. L., & Tross, S. (n.d.).
Journal titleDrug and alcohol dependence
Page(s)74-79AbstractObjective: Assess hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence and incidence among person who began injecting drugs during the opioid epidemic in New York City (NYC) and identify possible new directions for reducing HCV infection among persons who inject drugs. Methods: 846 persons who began injecting drugs between 2000 and 2017 were recruited from persons entering Mount Sinai Beth Israel substance use treatment programs. A structured interview was administered and HCV antibody testing conducted. Protective effects of non-injecting drug use were examined among persons who “reversed transitioned” to non-injecting drug use and persons who used non-injected heroin in addition to injecting. Results: Participants were 79% male, 41% White, 15% African-American, 40% Latinx, with a mean age of 35. Of those who began injecting in 2000 or later, 97 persons (11%) “reverse transitioned” back to non-injecting drug use. Reverse transitioning was strongly associated with lower HCV seroprevalence (30% versus 47% among those who continued injecting, p < 0.005). Among those who continued injecting, HCV seropositivity was inversely associated with current non-injecting heroin use (AOR = 0.72, 95%CI 0.52-0.99). HCV incidence among persons continuing to inject was estimated as 13/100 person-years. HCV seropositive persons currently injecting cocaine were particularly likely to report behavior likely to transmit HCV. Conclusions: Similar to other locations in the US, NYC is experiencing high rates of HCV infection among persons who have begun injecting since 2000. New interventions that facilitate substitution of non-injecting for injecting drug use and that reduce transmission behavior among HCV seropositives may provide additional methods for reducing HCV transmission.
Heterosexual male and female disparities in HIV infection at the end of an epidemic: HIV infection among persons who inject drugs in New York City, 2001–2005 and 2011–2015Des Jarlais, D. C., McKnight, C., Feelemyer, J., Arasteh, K., Tross, S., Campbell, A. N., Cooper, H. L., & Perlman, D. C. (n.d.).
Journal titleDrug and alcohol dependence
Page(s)391-397AbstractBackground: We examined whether sex disparities (heterosexual male:female) in HIV infection continue to persist at the “end of the HIV epidemic” among persons who inject drugs (PWID) in New York City (NYC). An “end of the epidemic” was operationally defined as 1) prevalence of untreated HIV infection <5%, and 2) estimated HIV incidence <0.5/100 person-years. Methods: PWID were recruited from persons entering substance use treatment programs at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in 2001–2005 and 2011–2015. A structured interview was administered, and HIV and HSV-2 testing was conducted. Incidence was estimated using newly diagnosed cases of HIV. Disparity analyses compared prevalence of HIV, of untreated HIV, HIV risk behaviors, and estimated HIV incidence. Results: By 2011–2015, both heterosexual male and female PWID met the two criteria for an “end of the epidemic,” and there were no significant differences in the prevalence of untreated HIV infection. A large sex difference remained in estimated HIV incidence. In 2013–2015, estimated HIV incidence was 2.8/10,000 PY for males and 7.1/10,000 PY for females. Females had greater risk for HIV on several factors. Conclusion: While NYC has reached an “end of the epidemic” for both heterosexual male and female PWID, sex disparities persist, particularly differences in HIV incidence. Eliminating the sex disparities may require a greater focus on factors associated with sexual transmission.
Potential geographic "hotspots" for drug-injection related transmission of HIV and HCV and for initiation into injecting drug use in New York city, 2011-2015, with implications for the current opioid epidemic in the USDes Jarlais, D. C., Cooper, H. L., Arasteh, K., Feelemyer, J., McKnight, C., & Ross, Z. (n.d.).
Journal titlePloS one
Issue3AbstractObjective We identified potential geographic “hotspots” for drug-injecting transmission of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) among persons who inject drugs (PWID) in New York City. The HIV epidemic among PWID is currently in an “end of the epidemic” stage, while HCV is in a continuing, high prevalence (> 50%) stage. Methods We recruited 910 PWID entering Mount Sinai Beth Israel substance use treatment programs from 2011–2015. Structured interviews and HIV/ HCV testing were conducted. Residential ZIP codes were used as geographic units of analysis. Potential “hotspots” for HIV and HCV transmission were defined as 1) having relatively large numbers of PWID 2) having 2 or more HIV (or HCV) seropositive PWID reporting transmission risk—passing on used syringes to others, and 3) having 2 or more HIV (or HCV) seronegative PWID reporting acquisition risk—injecting with previously used needles/syringes. Hotspots for injecting drug use initiation were defined as ZIP codes with 5 or more persons who began injecting within the previous 6 years. Results Among PWID, 96% injected heroin, 81% male, 34% White, 15% African-American, 47% Latinx, mean age 40 (SD = 10), 7% HIV seropositive, 62% HCV seropositive. Participants resided in 234 ZIP codes. No ZIP codes were identified as potential hotspots due to small numbers of HIV seropositive PWID reporting transmission risk. Four ZIP codes were identified as potential hotspots for HCV transmission. 12 ZIP codes identified as hotspots for injecting drug use initiation. Discussion For HIV, the lack of potential hotspots is further validation of widespread effectiveness of efforts to reduce injecting-related HIV transmission. Injecting-related HIV transmission is likely to be a rare, random event. HCV prevention efforts should include focus on potential hotspots for transmission and on hotspots for initiation into injecting drug use. We consider application of methods for the current opioid epidemic in the US.
Decline in herpes simplex virus type 2 among non-injecting heroin and cocaine users in New York City, 2005 to 2014: Prospects for avoiding a resurgence of human immunodeficiency virusDes Jarlais, D. C., Arasteh, K., Feelemyer, J., McKnight, C., Tross, S., Perlman, D. C., Campbell, A. N., Hagan, H., & Cooper, H. L. (n.d.).
Journal titleSexually Transmitted Diseases
Page(s)85-90AbstractBackground: Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection increases both susceptibility to and transmissibility of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and HSV-2 and HIV are often strongly associated in HIV epidemics. We assessed trends in HSV-2 prevalence among non-injecting drug users (NIDUs) when HIV prevalence declined from 16% to 8% among NIDUs in New York City. Methods: Subjects were current non-injecting users of heroin and/or cocaine and who had never injected illicit drugs. Three thousand one hundred fifty-seven NIDU subjects were recruited between 2005 and 2014 among persons entering Mount Sinai Beth Israel substance use treatment programs. Structured interviews, HIV, and HSV-2 testing were administered. Change over time was assessed by comparing 2005 to 2010 with 2011 to 2014 periods. Herpes simplex virus type 2 incidence was estimated among persons who participated in multiple years. Results: Herpes simplex virus type 2 prevalence was strongly associated with HIV prevalence (odds ratio, 3.9; 95% confidence interval, 2.9-5.1) from 2005 to 2014. Herpes simplex virus type 2 prevalence declined from 60% to 56% (P = 0.01). The percentage of NIDUs with neither HSV-2 nor HIVinfection increased from37% to 43%, (P < 0.001); the percentagewith HSV-2/HIV coinfection declined from 13% to 6% (P < 0.001). Estimated HSV-2 incidence was 1 to 2/100 person-years at risk. Conclusions: There were parallel declines in HIV and HSV-2 among NIDUs in New York City from 2005 to 2014. The increase in the percentage of NIDUs with neither HSV-2 nor HIV infection, the decrease in the percentage with HSV-2/HIV coinfection, and the low to moderate HSV-2 incidence suggest some population-level protection against resurgence of HIV. Prevention efforts should be strengthened to end the combined HIV/HSV-2 epidemic among NIDUs in New York City.
Decline in HSV-2 among non-injecting Heroin and Cocaine users in New York City, 2005-2014: potential protection against HIV resurgenceDes Jarlais, D., Arasteh, K., Feelemyer, J., Mcknight, C., Tross, S., Perlman, D., Campbell, A. N. C., Hagan, H., & Cooper, H. L. F. (n.d.).
Journal titleSexually Transmitted Diseases
Perceived discrimination among racial and ethnic minority drug users and the association with health care utilizationMcKnight, C., Shumway, M., Masson, C. L., Pouget, E. R., Jordan, A. E., Des Jarlais, D. C., Sorensen, J. L., & Perlman, D. C. (n.d.).
Journal titleJournal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse
Page(s)404-419AbstractPeople who use drugs (PWUDs) are at increased risk for several medical conditions, yet they delay seeking medical care and utilize emergency departments (EDs) as their primary source of care. Limited research regarding perceived discrimination and PWUDs’ use of health care services exists. This study explores the association between interpersonal and institutional racial/ethnic and drug use discrimination in health care settings and health care utilization among respondents (N = 192) recruited from methadone maintenance treatment programs (36%), HIV primary care clinics (35%), and syringe exchange programs (29%) in New York City (n = 88) and San Francisco (n = 104). The Kaiser Family Foundation Survey of Race, Ethnicity, and Medical Care questionnaire was utilized to assess perceived institutional racial/ethnic and drug use discrimination. Perceived institutional discrimination was examined across race/ethnicity and by regular use of ERs, having a regular doctor, and consistent health insurance. Perceived interpersonal discrimination was examined by race/ethnicity. Perceived interpersonal drug use discrimination was the most common type of discrimination experienced in health care settings. Perceptions of institutional discrimination related to race/ethnicity and drug use among non-Hispanic Whites did not significantly differ from those among non-Hispanic Blacks or Hispanics. A perception of less frequent institutional racial/ethnic and drug use discrimination in health care settings was associated with increased odds of having a regular doctor. Awareness of perceived interpersonal and institutional discrimination in certain populations and the effect on health care service utilization should inform future intervention development to help reduce discrimination and improve health care utilization among PWUDs.
Racial/ethnic disparities at the end of an HIV epidemic: Persons who inject drugs in New York City, 2011-2015Des Jarlais, D. C., Arasteh, K., McKnight, C., Feelemyer, J., Tross, S., Perlman, D., Friedman, S., & Campbell, A. (n.d.).
Journal titleAmerican journal of public health
Page(s)1157-1163AbstractObjectives. To examine whether racial/ethnic disparities persist at the "end of the HIV epidemic" (prevalence of untreated HIV infection < 5%; HIV incidence < 0.5 per 100 person-years) among persons who inject drugs (PWID) in New York City. Methods.We recruited 2404 PWID entering New York City substance use treatment in 2001 to 2005 and 2011 to 2015. We conducted a structured interview, and testing for HIV and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2; a biomarker for high sexual risk). We estimated incidence by using newly diagnosed cases of HIV. Disparity analyses compared HIV, untreated HIV, HIV-HSV-2 coinfection, HIV monoinfection, and estimated HIV incidence among Whites, African Americans, and Latinos. Results. By 2011 to 2015, Whites, African Americans, and Latino/as met both criteria of our operational "end-of-the-epidemic" definition. All comparisons that included HIV-HSV-2-coinfected persons had statistically significant higher rates of HIV among racial/ethnic minorities. No comparisons limited to HIV monoinfected persons were significant. Conclusions. "End-of-the-epidemic" criteria were met among White, African American, and Latino/a PWID in New York City, but elimination of disparities may require a greater focus on PWID with high sexual risk.
Risk factors for hepatitis C seropositivity among young people who inject drugs in New York City: Implications for preventionEckhardt, B., Winkelstein, E. R., Shu, M. A., Carden, M. R., McKnight, C., Des Jarlais, D. C., Glesby, M. J., Marks, K., & Edlin, B. R. (n.d.).
Journal titlePloS one
Issue5AbstractBackground: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection remains a significant problem in the United States, with people who inject drugs (PWID) disproportionately afflicted. Over the last decade rates of heroin use have more than doubled, with young persons (18-25 years) demonstrating the largest increase. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study in New York City from 2005 to 2012 among young people who injected illicit drugs, and were age 18 to 35 or had injected drugs for <5 years, to examine potentially modifiable factors associated with HCV among young adults who began injecting during the era of syringe services. Results: Among 714 participants, the median age was 24 years; the median duration of drug injection was 5 years; 31% were women; 75% identified as white; 69% reported being homeless; and 48% [95% CI 44-52] had HCV antibodies. Factors associated with HCV included older age (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.99 [1.52-2.63]; p<0.001), longer duration of injection drug use (AOR, 1.68 [1.39-2.02]; p<0.001), more frequent injection (AOR, 1.26 [1.09-1.45]; p = 0.001), using a used syringe with more individuals (AOR, 1.26 [1.10-1.46]; p = 0.001), less confidence in remaining uninfected (AOR, 1.32 [1.07-1.63]; p<0.001), injecting primarily in public or outdoors spaces (AOR, 1.90 [1.33-2.72]; p<0.001), and arrest for carrying syringes (AOR, 3.17 [1.95-5.17]; p<0.001). Conclusions: Despite the availability of harm reduction services, the seroprevalence of HCV in young PWID in New York City remained high and constant during 2005-2012. Age and several injection behaviors conferred independent risk. Individuals were somewhat aware of their own risk. Public and outdoor injection and arrest for possession of a syringe are risk factors for HCV that can be modified through structural interventions.
The New York 911 Good Samaritan Law and Opioid Overdose Prevention Among People Who Inject DrugsZadoretzky, C., McKnight, C., Bramson, H., Des Jarlais, D., Phillips, M., Hammer, M., & Cala, M. E. (n.d.).
Journal titleWorld Medical and Health Policy
Page(s)318-340AbstractThis study examines how people who inject drugs (PWIDs) applied and experienced New York's Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs (OOPPs) and 911 Good Samaritan Law. Mixed-methods interviews were conducted with a community sample of New York syringe exchange participants (N = 225) and new admissions to methadone treatment (N = 75) in 2013 and 2014. Most participants were unaware of explicit protections provided by New York law to witnesses (85 percent) or overdose victims (83 percent) who called 911 for assistance. However, 75 percent called 911 upon last witnessing an overdose and 85 percent were very likely to call 911 for future victims. Calling 911 was associated with knowing relatives or friends who died of overdose (AOR = 2.57; 95%CI: 1.28, 5.19), OOPP training since implementation of the 911 Good Samaritan Law (AOR = 1.55; 95%CI: 1.07, 2.24), and perceived importance of calling 911 (AOR = 2.12; 95%CI: 1.02, 4.40). Thematic patterns in qualitative data revealed that participants fearing criminal penalties delayed calling 911 or abandoned overdose victims after calling 911, risking victim morbidity and fatality. Misunderstanding of New York law and fear of criminal penalties undermined participants’ efforts to save lives, even when 911 was called. Public health outcomes may benefit by investigating how PWIDs misunderstand the 911 Good Samaritan Law.
What happened to the HIV epidemic among non-injecting drug users in New York City?Des Jarlais, D. C., Arasteh, K., McKnight, C., Feelemyer, J., Campbell, A. N., Tross, S., Cooper, H. L., Hagan, H., & Perlman, D. C. (n.d.).
Page(s)290-298AbstractBackground and aims: HIV has reached high prevalence in many non-injecting drug user (NIDU) populations. The aims of this study were to (1) examine the trend in HIV prevalence among non-injecting cocaine and heroin NIDUs in New York City, (2) identify factors potentially associated with the trend and (3) estimate HIV incidence among NIDUs. Design: Serial-cross sectional surveys of people entering drug treatment programs. People were permitted to participate only once per year, but could participate in multiple years. Setting: Mount Sinai Beth Israel drug treatment programs in New York City, USA. Participants: We recruited 3298 non-injecting cocaine and heroin users from 2005 to 2014. Participants were 78.7% male, 6.1% white, 25.7% Hispanic and 65.8% African American. Smoking crack cocaine was the most common non-injecting drug practice. Measures: Trend tests were used to examine HIV prevalence, demographics, drug use, sexual behavior and use of antiretroviral treatment (ART) by calendar year; χ2 and multivariable logistic regression were used to compare 2005–10 versus 2011–14. Findings: HIV prevalence declined approximately 1% per year (P < 0.001), with a decline from 16% in 2005–10 to 8% in 2011–14 (P < 0.001). The percentages of participants smoking crack and having multiple sexual partners declined and the percentage of HIV-positive people on ART increased. HIV incidence among repeat participants was 1.2 per 1000 person-years (95% confidence interval = 0.03/1000–7/1000). Conclusions: HIV prevalence has declined and a high percentage of HIV-positive non-injecting drug users (NIDUs) are receiving antiretroviral treatment, suggesting an end to the HIV epidemic among NIDUs in New York City. These results can be considered a proof of concept that it is possible to control non-injecting drug use related sexual transmission HIV epidemics.
Consistent estimates of very low HIV incidence among people who inject drugs: New York City, 2005-2014Des Jarlais, D. C., Arasteh, K., McKnight, C., Feelemyer, J., Campbell, A. N., Tross, S., Smith, L., Cooper, H. L., Hagan, H., & Perlman, D. (n.d.).
Journal titleAmerican journal of public health
Page(s)503-508AbstractObjectives. To compare methods for estimating low HIV incidence among persons who inject drugs. Methods. We examined 4 methods in New York City, 2005 to 2014: (1) HIV seroconversions among repeat participants, (2) increase of HIV prevalence by additional years of injection among new injectors, (3) the New York State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stratified extrapolation algorithm, and (4) newly diagnosed HIV cases reported to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Results. The 4 estimates were consistent: (1) repeat participants: 0.37 per 100 person-years (PY; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.05/100 PY, 1.33/100 PY); (2) regression of prevalence by years injecting: 0.61 per 100 PY (95% CI = 0.36/100 PY, 0.87/100 PY); (3) stratified extrapolation algorithm: 0.32 per 100 PY (95% CI = 0.18/100 PY, 0.46/100 PY); and (4)newly diagnosed cases of HIV: 0.14 per 100PY (95%CI = 0.11/100 PY, 0.16/100 PY). Conclusions. All methods appear to capture the same phenomenon of very low and decreasing HIV transmission among persons who inject drugs. Public Health Implications. If resources are available, the use ofmultiple methodswould provide better information for public health purposes.
From Long-Term Injecting to Long-Term Non-Injecting Heroin and Cocaine Use: The Persistence of Changed Drug HabitsJarlais, D. C., Arasteh, K., Feelemyer, J., McKnight, C., Barnes, D. M., Tross, S., Perlman, D. C., Campbell, A. N., Cooper, H. L., & Hagan, H. (n.d.).
Journal titleJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Page(s)48-53AbstractObjectives Transitioning from injecting to non-injecting routes of drug administration can provide important individual and community health benefits. We assessed characteristics of persons who had ceased injecting while continuing to use heroin and/or cocaine in New York City. Methods We recruited subjects entering Mount Sinai Beth Israel detoxification and methadone maintenance programs between 2011 and 2015. Demographic information, drug use histories, sexual behaviors, and “reverse transitions” from injecting to non-injecting drug use were assessed in structured face-to-face interviews. There were 303 “former injectors,” operationally defined as persons who had injected at some time in their lives, but had not injected in at least the previous 6 months. Serum samples were collected for HIV and HCV testing. Results Former injectors were 81% male, 19% female, 17% White, 43% African-American, and 38% Latino/a, with a mean age of 50 (SD = 9.2), and were currently using heroin and/or cocaine. They had injected drugs for a mean of 14 (SD = 12.2) years before ceasing injection, and a mean of 13 (SD = 12) years had elapsed since their last injection. HIV prevalence among the sample was 13% and HCV prevalence was 66%. The former injectors reported a wide variety of reasons for ceasing injecting. Half of the group appeared to have reached a point where relapse back to injecting was no longer problematic: they had not injected for three or more years, were not deliberately using specific techniques to avoid relapse to injecting, and were not worried about relapsing to injecting. Conclusions Former injectors report very-long term behavior change toward reduced individual and societal harm while continuing to use heroin and cocaine. The behavior change appears to be self-sustaining, with full replacement of an injecting route of drug administration by a non-injecting route of administration. Additional research on the process of long-term cessation of injecting should be conducted within a “combined prevention and care” approach to HIV and HCV infection among persons who use drugs.
Providing ART to HIV Seropositive Persons Who Use Drugs: Progress in New York City, Prospects for “Ending the Epidemic”Jarlais, D. C., Arasteh, K., McKnight, C., Feelemyer, J., Hagan, H., Cooper, H. L., Campbell, A. N., Tross, S., & Perlman, D. C. (n.d.).
Journal titleAIDS and Behavior
Page(s)353-362AbstractNew York City has experienced the largest HIV epidemic among persons who use psychoactive drugs. We examined progress in placing HIV seropositive persons who inject drugs (PWID) and HIV seropositive non-injecting drug users (NIDU) onto antiretroviral treatment (ART) in New York City over the last 15 years. We recruited 3511 PWID and 3543 NIDU from persons voluntarily entering drug detoxification and methadone maintenance treatment programs in New York City from 2001 to 2014. HIV prevalence declined significantly among both PWID and NIDU. The percentage who reported receiving ART increased significantly, from approximately 50 % (2001–2005) to approximately 75 % (2012–2014). There were no racial/ethnic disparities in the percentages of HIV seropositive persons who were on ART. Continued improvement in ART uptake and TasP and maintenance of other prevention and care services should lead to an “End of the AIDS Epidemic” for persons who use heroin and cocaine in New York City.