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community health research, syringe, pwid, persons who inject drugs, ssp, syringe service program, pandemic, covid-19







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The COVID-19 pandemic has had worldwide impacts, including disrupting community services. One interrupted service was syringe service programs (SSPs), community-established initiatives that provide sterile supplies and aid in overcoming addiction in drug-using participants. In the United States (U.S.), SSPs have been key in combating the recent opioid use crisis and associated infections such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C. While some published reports on the pandemic's overall impacts on SSPs exist, certain aspects such as operational changes and repercussions on staff and participants may still be lacking. Information about the impact of interrupted SSP services due to the pandemic may provide insight into how to prepare to mitigate similar outcomes during possible future health outbreaks. The aim of this scoping review was thus to explore the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operations, staff, and participants of SSPs in the U.S. The initial search of the databases PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science with selected keywords yielded 117 articles published in English between January 1, 2020, and August 31, 2022. After screening each article for study eligibility, 11 articles were included in the final review. Of the seven articles exploring SSP operational impacts from the pandemic, five acknowledged that mitigation strategies influenced functions, seven highlighted supply changes, and four emphasized the resulting staffing changes. Four studies inspected the pandemic's impacts on SSP participants, which included two articles highlighting participants' struggles with isolation and loneliness, one referencing the fear of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and two examining the overall negative psychological effects experienced during this time. SSPs in various settings and regions across the U.S. experienced changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these modifications negatively impacted operations, staffing, and participant relationships. Examining the issues that individual SSPs encountered highlights opportunities for structured solutions for the present and in the case of future infectious disease outbreaks. With the severity of the opioid use crisis in the U.S. and the dependence on SSPs for its mitigation, future work in this space should be prioritized.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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