Why Young PWIDs?

Why young PWIDs?

Young people who inject drugs (PWIDs) are at high risk for viral infections, such as HIV, HCV, and hepatitis B virus (HBV), due to frequent injecting, needle/syringe and other drug preparation equipment sharing, high numbers of sexual partners, and exchange of sex for money or drugs. In San Francisco, street youth who inject:

  • are typically homeless who often are involved in 'street economy', including sex work, drug sales, panhandling, petty theft and selling stolen property
  • have high rates of unemployment, lack formal education, and are likely to experience mental health disorders
  • experience a large number of negative and traumatic events prior to leaving stable living environment
  • fear and mistrust authority and institutions and consequently avoid or delay contact with the public health system
  • are extremely vulnerable to multiple negative health outcomes due to the combination of youth, drugs, survival sex and disenfranchisement
The UFO Study collects research data from a community of young injectors while delivering valuable medical and social services and referrals to this population. Field staff exercise a harm reduction-based non-judgmental approach to data collection and service provision, and are deeply committed to serving the needs of a population that is largely stigmatized in other medical and social settings. The effect is a unique sense of ownership and pride among field staff and research participants. The longevity of its research projects and the exceptional competency of its field staff have enabled the UFO Study to build trust within San Francisco’s young adult PWID community. Young injectors are met by field staff with compassion, support, and resources, which in turn facilitates honesty and the acquisition of accurate data.

In addition to paid research, UFO Study offers the following services on Wednesday nights from 4:30 to 8:30PM:

  • Free and confidential HCV and HIV testing and risk reduction counseling
  • Housing, health and social service referrals
  • Drug treatment referrals
  • On-site nurse care
  • Outreach supplies
  • Syringe distribution
  • Nalaxone training, prescription and distribution
  • Food and refreshments provided