Understanding performance and image-enhancing drug (PIED) injecting to improve health and minimise hepatitis c transmission

This ARC-funded project will investigate the social practices associated with men’s use of performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) in Australia, to better understand who takes them, when, why and how, and to create new knowledge on the health information needs of men who inject PIEDs. PIED use is increasing in Australia and can be associated with serious health issues, including hepatitis C transmission where injection occurs. However, little is currently known about PIED injecting, and Australia’s harm reduction framework is unprepared to meet the challenges it poses. This project expects to directly inform policy and practice, aiming to help minimise hepatitis C transmission among men who inject PIEDs. In the process the project will illuminate contemporary practices of masculinity through PIED use as they play out in relation to sexuality, ethnicity, age and other issues.

The research team comprises:

  • Prof Suzanne Fraser, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
  • Prof David Moore, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
  • Dr Campbell Aitken, Burnet Institute; Monash University
  • Dr Kate Seear, Monash University; Springvale Monash Legal Service
  • Kay Stanton, Darebin Community Health Service
  • Dr Renae Fomiatti, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
  • Ms Emily Lenton, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
  • Dr Joe Latham, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University

The research also draws on the expertise of an advisory board representing a range of sector stakeholders. The advisory board comprises representatives from Queensland Health, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Harm Reduction Victoria, Hepatitis Victoria, Hepatitis Queensland, Hepatitis New South Wales, Queensland Injectors’ Health Network, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Fitness Australia, Australian Drug Foundation, and ACON.

The overall aim of the project is to explore the meanings given to PIED injecting, and particularly to gain insights relevant to the prevention of hepatitis C transmission.  The study will conduct semi-structured interviews with 20 PIED using men in each of three states: Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. It will also conduct interviews with 20 health professionals across the three states. The qualitative study will investigate the dynamic intersections of PIED use with men’s experiences of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and age.

The research will generate:

  • New knowledge about the meanings and practices of PIED injecting, and opportunities for health education;
  • Targeted recommendations for PIED-related hepatitis C prevention education and other health information;
  • A publicly accessible research website offering project findings, other relevant research, opportunities to comment on PIED use, and links to policy and treatment services; and
  • Increased capacity of the Australian health workforce to respond to PIED use.

For further information about this study, contact Renae Fomiatti on 03 9079 2204.