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UK Drug Service Users Design Promo Material to Reduce Infection Spread

New posters, a booklet, and an animation, co-designed by service users at a UK drugs project, are being launched to promote low dead space injecting equipment for people who inject drugs.

Low dead space equipment has less space between the needle and the plunger after injecting. Blood and drug remain in this space, so if equipment is shared the risk of spreading blood borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis C is higher when there’s more space for blood to be left in the equipment.

The materials will be launched at a special event on 24 January in Bristol. At the event, the animation will have its premiere, there will be an opportunity to hear from those involved in the project, including the Bristol Drugs Project service users themselves, alongside an exhibition of the materials. The posters will be on public display in a Bristol gallery from 8-31 January.

The materials build on research by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West (CLAHRC West) and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol. Their research found that people who inject drugs would be willing to switch to this safer equipment, if the benefits of less wasted drugs and lower risk of passing infections were explained and they were introduced gradually. The research also informed some of the messages in the materials.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Deborah Hussey, Assertive Engagement Worker from Bristol Drugs Project, joined the CLAHRC West team as Knowledge Mobilisation Fellow for the project. Deborah visited needle and syringe programmes around the UK, from Glasgow to London, to understand barriers to the uptake of low dead space equipment, and how different programmes operate and share harm reduction messages.

Deborah and the rest of the team then worked with Michael Linnell of Linnell Communications, a designer who specialises in information product design for drugs, alcohol and public health campaigns.

Through a series of workshops, the materials were co-designed by service users from Bristol Drugs Project who shaped the messages, language, and look and feel of the materials. The final products are available to download from Exchange Supplies’ website. Exchange Supplies is a social enterprise that has pioneered the use of detachable low dead space equipment among people who inject drugs.

The project was overseen by a steering group that included Bristol Drugs Project, Exchange Supplies, Public Health England, the Bristol Health Partners Drug and Alcohol Health Integration Team (HIT), CLAHRC West and HPRU in Evaluation of Interventions.

Deborah Hussey, Knowledge Mobilisation Fellow on the project, said:

“It has been a privilege to work on this project. It’s given me the opportunity to find out how other needle and syringe programmes operate, through shadowing and talking to staff, and having tours of their facilities. It’s been fascinating to compare how different places tackle things.

“I’ve valued the opportunity to help the service users on the project feel a real part of the team. We’ve had wonderful feedback from them about how empowered the process has made them feel, and how they felt their views were not only listened to, but were integral to the design process. It was an honour to enable this positive experience for them. I’m very proud of what we’ve produced together.”

Jo Kesten, Principle Investigator on the project, said:

“Increasing the use of low dead space injecting equipment has the potential to reduce the spread of blood borne viruses. Although detachable low dead space injecting equipment is available, it isn’t widely distributed through needle and syringe programmes.

“This project is an important step towards encouraging needle and syringe programmes to introduce this equipment and helping service users get used it. It has great potential to reduce the harms of injecting drugs.

“It’s been incredibly valuable to work with Deborah on this project. Her knowledge and expertise have been key to its success.”

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