Document Type



Female sex workers who inject drugs (FSW-IDUs) face elevated risk for HIV/STIs and constitute a key population for public health prevention. Through direct and indirect pathways including human rights violations, policing practices like syringe confiscation can compound FSW-IDU health risk and facilitate the spread of disease. We studied correlates of experiencing syringe confiscation among FSW-IDUs in northern Mexico, where formal policy allows for syringes to be available over-the-counter without a prescription, but police practices are often at odds with the law. FSW-IDUs reporting recent syringe sharing and unprotected sex with clients in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez were administered surveys and HIV/STI testing. Logistic regression was used to identify correlates of syringe confiscation. Among 624 respondent FSW-IDUs, prevalence of syringe confiscation in the last 6 months was 48%. The following factors were positively associated with syringe confiscation: testing positive for HIV (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]=2.54, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.11-5.80), reporting sexual abuse by police (aOR=12.76, 95%CI=6.58-24.72), engaging in groin injection (aOR=1.84, 95%CI=1.15-2.93), injecting in public (aOR=1.64; 95%CI=1.14-2.36), and obtaining syringes from pharmacies (aOR:1.54; 95%CI=1.06-2.23). Higher education level was negatively associated with syringe confiscation (aOR=0.92, 95%CI=0.87-0.98) as was frequent injection with clients within the last month (aOR=0.64, 95%CI=0.44-0.94). This analysis adds to the body of evidence linking unauthorized law enforcement actions targeting high-risk groups with HIV and other adverse health outcomes. Using a public health lens to conceptualize abuse as a structural risk factor, we advocate for multi-prong prevention, systematic monitoring, and evidence-based intervention response to deleterious police practices.

Date of Authorship for this Version



sex workers, intravenous drug users, police, public health, Mexico, Health Law

Original Citation

Originally published in the Journal of Urban Health, Vol. 90, No. 2, pp. 284-298, 2013. The final publication is available at:, Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA; R01 DA023877), R25DA025771, and D43TW008633.