Background: Injection drug use is an important public health issue in the United States, and estimates indicate that American Indian and Alaska Native people are disproportionately affected. Injection drug use is also the leading cause of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in the United States, attributable to over half of all cases, and contributes to 44% of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition in American Indian and Alaska Native females. Existing estimates of American Indian and Alaska Native people who inject drugs are limited. We aimed to estimate the number of people who inject drugs in Cherokee Nation.
Methods: A two-sample, capture-recapture approach was used. The first data source was an abstraction of Cherokee Nation Health Services electronic medical records from February 2017 through December 2018. The second data source was an abstraction from Cherokee Nation’s HCV Elimination Program Database from August 2015 through December 2018. Individuals were included in the abstractions if they were asked if they had injected drugs in the past six months during their health visit. The indirect prevalence estimate of people who inject drugs was calculated in accordance with the UNAIDS/WHO Guidelines on Estimating the Size of Populations Most at Risk to HIV.
Results: In total, 198 individuals across both data sources reported that they had injected drugs within the past six months. This included 123 unique individuals from the first source, 69 individuals from the second source, and six individuals who were included in both sources. Capture-recapture calculations indicated an estimate of 1,613 people who inject drugs (95% CI: 1,530.27, 1,694.7).
Conclusions: This study was the first attempt at estimating the number of people who inject drugs in Cherokee Nation, and one of the few existing studies to estimate the number of American Indian/Alaska Native people who inject drugs in the United States. Gaining knowledge about the prevalence of people who inject drugs in Cherokee Nation will inform strategies to support addiction care and treatment among people who inject drugs living in Indian Country.