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Glob Health Sci Pract ; 10(2)2022 04 28.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1897171


INTRODUCTION: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and resulting lockdowns have disrupted health care service delivery globally. This includes disruptions in harm reduction and HIV service delivery for people who inject drugs (PWID), a population at high risk for not only COVID-19 but also poor HIV and drug-treatment access. However, little is known about these issues in Kazakhstan. We examined harm reduction provider experiences with delivering services and regulatory changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: We conducted in-depth interviews with 24 nurses, social workers, and doctors serving both HIV-positive and HIV-negative PWID at 13 needle and syringe programs (NSPs) and 4 AIDS Centers (HIV treatments centers) in Kazakhstan from May to August 2020. Participants were asked how the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted their PWID clients' risks, their organizational environment, and the services offered to PWID over the prior 3-6 months. Thematic content analysis was used to elicit findings. FINDINGS: The COVID-19 pandemic considerably impacted NSP and AIDS Center operations. Participants perceived high risks of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection for themselves and their clients, as well as pandemic-related increases in substance use and HIV risks for clients. Organizations instituted several policy and regulatory changes to adapt to the pandemic, most notably tasking NSPs with delivering HIV medications; these changes necessitated new roles and responsibilities for many providers. Despite this stressful changing environment and increased service demands, participants still shared examples of persistence and resilience as they worked to meet client needs during these challenging times. DISCUSSION: NSPs in Kazakhstan are well-positioned to reach key populations with crucial information and flexible services during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they need recognition as essential organizations and additional equipment and staff support to protect staff and clients, maintain pandemic-related regulatory changes, and address additional challenges such as overdose prevention among clients.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome , COVID-19 , Drug Users , Substance Abuse, Intravenous , COVID-19/epidemiology , Communicable Disease Control , Continuity of Patient Care , Humans , Kazakhstan/epidemiology , Pandemics , Pharmaceutical Preparations , SARS-CoV-2 , Substance Abuse, Intravenous/complications , Substance Abuse, Intravenous/therapy