Migration to the US among rural Puerto Ricans who inject drugs: Influential factors, sources of support, and challenges for harm reduction interventions

R. Abadie, P. Habecker, C. Gelpi-Acosta, K. Dombrowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: While PWID of Puerto Rican origin have been migrating to the US for decades, the range of factors influencing their migration to the US and the resources they draw on to do so are not well understood. This is particularly true for rural Puerto Rican PWID, and the present study is the first empirical research to document migration patterns among this population. The specificities of their migration raise important challenges that need to be documented in order to implement more effective harm reduction policies at home (Puerto Rico) and abroad (US). Methods: This paper draws from data obtained employing a modified NHBS survey which was administered to (N =296) PWID in four rural municipalities of Puerto Rico with participants 18 years or older. The primary dependent variables for this paper are the number of times a person has lived in the continental US, and if they are planning on moving to the continental US in the future. Results: Findings suggest that 65% of the sample reported ever lived in the US and that 49% are planning on moving in the future. The number of times living in the US is associated with higher education and older age, but not with self-reported positive HIV or HCV statuses. Planning to move to the US is associated with knowing PWID who have moved or plan to move, negatively associated with age, and is not associated with HIV or HCV status. Around one third of those that lived in the US reported having some sort of support, with the majority receiving support from family sources. No participant received help to enter HIV/HCV treatment. Conclusions: A multi-region approach to prevention is required to make a dent in curbing HIV/HCV transmission in this population. Understanding PWID migration patterns, risk behaviors, and health care needs in the US is now more important than ever as natural disasters prompted by human-made climate change will only increase in the future, raising demands not only for service providers but also harm reduction policies to cope with an increasing influx of "climate refugees" as PWID move across national borders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1710
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 19 2019


  • Continental US
  • Epidemiological bridge
  • HIV
  • Harm reduction
  • Migration
  • PWID
  • Puerto Rico

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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