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1.  Greater Drug Injecting Risk for HIV, HBV, and HCV Infection in a City Where Syringe Exchange and Pharmacy Syringe Distribution are Illegal 
Journal of Urban Health   2008;85(3):309-322.
Comparing drug-injecting risk between cities that differ in the legality of sterile syringe distribution for injection drug use provides a natural experiment to assess the efficacy of legalizing sterile syringe distribution as a structural intervention to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other parenterally transmitted infections among injection drug users (IDUs). This study compares the parenteral risk for HIV and hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) infection among IDUs in Newark, NJ, USA, where syringe distribution programs were illegal during the period when data were collected, and New York City (NYC) where they were legal. IDUs were nontreatment recruited, 2004–2006, serotested, and interviewed about syringe sources and injecting risk behaviors (prior 30 days). In multivariate logistic regression, adjusted odds ratios (AOR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for city differences are estimated controlling for potential city confounders. IDUs in Newark (n = 214) vs. NYC (n = 312) were more likely to test seropositive for HIV (26% vs. 5%; AOR = 3.2; 95% CI = 1.6, 6.1), antibody to the HBV core antigen (70% vs. 27%; AOR = 4.4; 95% CI = 2.8, 6.9), and antibody to HCV (82% vs. 53%; AOR = 3.0; 95% CI = 1.8, 4.9), were less likely to obtain syringes from syringe exchange programs or pharmacies (AOR = 0.004; 95% CI = 0.001, 0.01), and were more likely to obtain syringes from street sellers (AOR = 74.0; 95% CI = 29.9, 183.2), to inject with another IDU’s used syringe (AOR = 2.3; 95% CI = 1.1, 5.0), to reuse syringes (AOR = 2.99; 95% CI = 1.63, 5.50), and to not always inject once only with a new, sterile syringe that had been sealed in a wrapper (AOR = 5.4; 95% CI = 2.9, 10.3). In localities where sterile syringe distribution is illegal, IDUs are more likely to obtain syringes from unsafe sources and to engage in injecting risk behaviors. Legalizing and rapidly implementing sterile syringe distribution programs are critical for reducing parenterally transmitted HIV, HBV, and HCV among IDUs.
PMCID: PMC2329750  PMID: 18340537
HIV; HBV; HCV; Drug injectors; IDU; Risk behaviors; Syringe exchange; Needle exchange; Pharmacy syringes.
2.  The role of needle exchange programs in HIV prevention. 
Public Health Reports  1998;113(Suppl 1):75-80.
Injecting drug users (IDUs) are at high risk for infection by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other blood-borne pathogens. In the United States, IDUs account for nearly one-third of the cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), either directly or indirectly (heterosexual and perinatal cases of AIDS where the source of infection was an IDU). IDU also account for a substantial proportion of cases of hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) virus infections. The primary mode of transmission of HIV among IDUs is parenteral, through direct needle sharing or multiperson use of syringes. Despite high levels of knowledge about risk, multiperson use of needles and syringes is due primarily to fear of arrest and incarceration for violation of drug paraphernalia laws and ordinances that prohibit manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession of equipment and materials intended to be used with narcotics. It is estimated that in 1997 there were approximately 110 needle exchange programs (NEPs) in North America. In part, because of the ban on the use of Federal funds for the operation of needle exchange, it has been difficult to evaluate the efficacy of these programs. This chapter presents data from the studies that have evaluated the role of NEPs in HIV prevention. Evidence for the efficacy of NEPs comes from three source: (1) studies originally focused on the effectiveness of NEPs in non-HIV blood-borne infections, (2) mathematical modeling of data on needle exchange on HIV seroincidence, and (3) studies that examine the positive and negative impact of NEPs on HIV and AIDS. Case-control studies have provided powerful data on the positive effect of NEPs on reduction of two blood-borne viral infections (HBV and HCV) For example, a case-control study in Tacoma, Washington, showed that a six-fold increase in HBV and a seven-fold increase in HCV infections in IDUs were associated with nonuse of the NEP. The first federally funded study of needle exchange was an evaluation of the New Haven NEP, which is legally operated by the New Haven Health Department. Rather than relying on self-report of reduced risky injection drug use, this study utilized mathematical and statistical modeling, using data from a syringe tracking and testing system. Incidence of HIV infection among needle exchange participants was estimated to have decreased by 33% as a result of the NEP. A series of Government-commissioned reports have reviewed the data on positive and negative outcomes of NEPs. The major reports are from the National Commission on AIDS; the U.S. General Accounting Office; the Centers for Disease Control/University of California; and the National Academy of Sciences. The latter two reports are used in this chapter. The aggregated results support the positive benefit of NEPs and do not support negative outcomes from NEPs. When legal restrictions on both purchase and possession of syringes are removed, IDUs will change their syringe-sharing behaviors in ways that can reduce HIV transmission. NEPs do not result in increased drug use among participants or the recruitment of first-time drug users.
PMCID: PMC1307729  PMID: 9722812
3.  HIV among People Who Inject Drugs in the Middle East and North Africa: Systematic Review and Data Synthesis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001663.
Laith Abu-Raddad and colleagues assess the current state of knowledge of the HIV epidemic among people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
It is perceived that little is known about the epidemiology of HIV infection among people who inject drugs (PWID) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The primary objective of this study was to assess the status of the HIV epidemic among PWID in MENA by describing HIV prevalence and incidence. Secondary objectives were to describe the risk behavior environment and the HIV epidemic potential among PWID, and to estimate the prevalence of injecting drug use in MENA.
Methods and Findings
This was a systematic review following the PRISMA guidelines and covering 23 MENA countries. PubMed, Embase, regional and international databases, as well as country-level reports were searched up to December 16, 2013. Primary studies reporting (1) the prevalence/incidence of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, or hepatitis C virus (HCV) among PWIDs; or (2) the prevalence of injecting or sexual risk behaviors, or HIV knowledge among PWID; or (3) the number/proportion of PWID in MENA countries, were eligible for inclusion. The quality, quantity, and geographic coverage of the data were assessed at country level. Risk of bias in predefined quality domains was described to assess the quality of available HIV prevalence measures. After multiple level screening, 192 eligible reports were included in the review. There were 197 HIV prevalence measures on a total of 58,241 PWID extracted from reports, and an additional 226 HIV prevalence measures extracted from the databases.
We estimated that there are 626,000 PWID in MENA (range: 335,000–1,635,000, prevalence of 0.24 per 100 adults). We found evidence of HIV epidemics among PWID in at least one-third of MENA countries, most of which are emerging concentrated epidemics and with HIV prevalence overall in the range of 10%–15%. Some of the epidemics have however already reached considerable levels including some of the highest HIV prevalence among PWID globally (87.1% in Tripoli, Libya). The relatively high prevalence of sharing needles/syringes (18%–28% in the last injection), the low levels of condom use (20%–54% ever condom use), the high levels of having sex with sex workers and of men having sex with men (15%–30% and 2%–10% in the last year, respectively), and of selling sex (5%–29% in the last year), indicate a high injecting and sexual risk environment. The prevalence of HCV (31%–64%) and of sexually transmitted infections suggest high levels of risk behavior indicative of the potential for more and larger HIV epidemics.
Our study identified a large volume of HIV-related biological and behavioral data among PWID in the MENA region. The coverage and quality of the data varied between countries. There is robust evidence for HIV epidemics among PWID in multiple countries, most of which have emerged within the last decade and continue to grow. The lack of sufficient evidence in some MENA countries does not preclude the possibility of hidden epidemics among PWID in these settings. With the HIV epidemic among PWID in overall a relatively early phase, there is a window of opportunity for prevention that should not be missed through the provision of comprehensive programs, including scale-up of harm reduction services and expansion of surveillance systems.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
About 35 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and around 2.3 million people become newly infected every year. HIV is mainly transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner. However, people who inject drugs (PWID) have a particularly high risk of HIV infection because blood transfer through needle and syringe sharing can transmit the virus. Worldwide, 5%–10% of all HIV-positive people are PWID but in some regions of the world the fraction of all HIV-positive people that are PWID is even higher. To meet the global health challenge of the high HIV prevalence (the proportion of a population that has a specific disease) among PWID, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other international bodies endorse harm reduction strategies to prevent risky injection behaviors among PWID. These strategies include education and the provision of clean needles, syringes, and opioid substitution therapy.
Why Was This Study Done?
To maximize the effect of these harm-reduction strategies in specific regions, it is important to understand the status of the HIV epidemic among PWID. Although surveillance systems provide the information on HIV infection needed to track the progress of HIV epidemics among PWID in many regions, little is known about the HIV epidemic among PWID in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA, a geographical region that encompasses countries that share historical, socio-cultural, linguistic, and religious characteristics). Several factors contribute to the likelihood of individuals injecting drugs in MENA. For example, Afghanistan (a MENA country) produces most of the world's supply of heroin, which is largely trafficked through Iran and Pakistan (also MENA countries). In this systematic review and data synthesis, the researchers use predefined criteria to identify all the published and unpublished data on HIV prevalence and incidence (the number of new cases of a disease in a population in a given time) among PWID in MENA and combine (synthesize) these data to assess the status of the HIV epidemic in this key population for HIV transmission in MENA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 192 reports that reported the prevalence/incidence of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV, another virus transmitted through drug injection) among PWID, the prevalence of injecting or sexual risk behaviors among PWID, or the number/proportion of PWID in MENA. From these data, the researchers estimated that there are about 600,000 PWID in MENA (a prevalence of 0.24 per 100 adults, which is comparable with figures from other regions). The data provided evidence for HIV epidemics among PWID in at least a third of MENA countries, mainly emerging concentrated epidemics (epidemics that are still growing but in which HIV infection and transmission are already considerable). HIV prevalence among PWID in MENA varied considerably, reaching an extremely high prevalence of 87.1% in Tripoli, Libya. The data also revealed a high injecting and sexual risk environment among PWID in MENA (for example, on average, about a quarter of PWID shared a needle or syringe in their most recent injection and only a third reported ever using condoms) that, together with a high prevalence of HCV and sexually transmitted infections among PWID, indicates the potential for more and larger HIV epidemics.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that substantial amounts of HIV-related data have been collected from PWID in MENA but that the coverage and quality of these data vary widely between countries. They provide robust evidence for growing HIV epidemics, most of which have emerged within the past decade, among PWID in several MENA countries, but do not preclude the possibility of hidden epidemics among PWID in additional MENA countries. Overall, these findings suggest that the HIV epidemic among PWID in MENA is at a relatively early stage. This window of opportunity to control the emerging epidemics should not be missed, warn the researchers. HIV surveillance among PWID in MENA must be expanded to detect and monitor emerging and growing HIV epidemics, they suggest, and to inform effective HIV policy and programming. Improvements in HIV prevention and treatment among PWID in MENA are essential, they conclude, to confront the growing HIV problem in this population and, to prevent the onward transmission of HIV from PWID to other population groups.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
A 2010 report produced by the World Bank, UNAIDS, and WHO provides information on the status of the HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa; the UNAIDS Middle East and North Africa Regional Report on AIDS 2011 provides further information
The 2013 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it
The Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association (MENAHRA) provides information about harm reduction efforts, services, and programs in the Middle East and North Africa; Harm Reduction International provides information about harm reduction concepts, strategies, programs, and publications globally
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on people who inject drugs and HIV/AIDS and on harm reduction and HIV prevention (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse also provides information about drug abuse and HIV/AIDS (in English and Spanish)
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, Nam/aidsmap, and Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC4061009  PMID: 24937136
4.  Risk Behaviors, Prevalence of HIV and Hepatitis C Virus Infection and Population Size of Current Injection Drug Users in a China-Myanmar Border City: Results from a Respondent-Driven Sampling Survey in 2012 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106899.
Injection drug use has been the major cause of HIV/AIDS in China in the past two decades. We measured the prevalences of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence and their associated risk factors among current injection drug users (IDUs) in Ruili city, a border region connecting China with Myanmar that has been undergoing serious drug use and HIV spread problems. An estimate of the number of current IDUs is also presented.
In 2012, Chinese IDUs who had injected within the past six months and aged ≥18 years were recruited using a respondent-driven sampling (RDS) technique. Participants underwent interviews and serological testing for HIV, HBV, HCV and syphilis. Logistic regression indentified factors associated with HIV and HCV infections. Multiplier method was used to obtain an estimate of the size of the current IDU population via combining available service data and findings from our survey.
Among 370 IDUs recruited, the prevalence of HIV and HCV was 18.3% and 41.5%, respectively. 27.1% of participants had shared a needle/syringe in their lifetime. Consistent condom use rates were low among both regular (6.8%) and non-regular (30.4%) partners. Factors independently associated with being HIV positive included HCV infection, having a longer history of injection drug use and experience of needle/syringe sharing. Participants with HCV infection were more likely to be HIV positive, have injected more types of drugs, have shared other injection equipments and have unprotected sex with regular sex partners. The estimated number of current IDUs in Ruili city was 2,714 (95% CI: 1,617–5,846).
IDUs may continue to be a critical subpopulation for transmission of HIV and other infections in this region because of the increasing population and persistent high risk of injection and sexual behaviours. Developing innovative strategies that can improve accessibility of current harm reduction services and incorporate more comprehensive contents is urgently needed.
PMCID: PMC4159231  PMID: 25203256
5.  Improving survey methods in sero-epidemiological studies of injecting drug users: a case example of two cross sectional surveys in Serbia and Montenegro 
Little is known about the prevalence of HIV or HCV in injecting drug users (IDUs) in Serbia and Montenegro. We measured prevalence of antibodies to HIV (anti-HIV) and hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV), and risk factors for anti-HCV, in community-recruited IDUs in Belgrade and Podgorica, and determined the performance of a parallel rapid HIV testing algorithm.
Respondent driven sampling and audio-computer assisted survey interviewing (ACASI) methods were employed. Dried blood spots were collected for unlinked anonymous antibody testing. Belgrade IDUs were offered voluntary confidential rapid HIV testing using a parallel testing algorithm, the performance of which was compared with standard laboratory tests. Predictors of anti-HCV positivity and the diagnostic accuracy of the rapid HIV test algorithm were calculated.
Overall population prevalence of anti-HIV and anti-HCV in IDUs were 3% and 63% respectively in Belgrade (n = 433) and 0% and 22% in Podgorica (n = 328). Around a quarter of IDUs in each city had injected with used needles and syringes in the last four weeks. In both cities anti-HCV positivity was associated with increasing number of years injecting (eg Belgrade adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 5.6 (95% CI 3.2–9.7) and Podgorica AOR 2.5 (1.3–5.1) for ≥ 10 years v 0–4 years), daily injecting (Belgrade AOR 1.6 (1.0–2.7), Podgorica AOR 2.1 (1.3–5.1)), and having ever shared used needles/syringes (Belgrade AOR 2.3 (1.0–5.4), Podgorica AOR 1.9 (1.4–2.6)). Half (47%) of Belgrade participants accepted rapid HIV testing, and there was complete concordance between rapid test results and subsequent confirmatory laboratory tests (sensitivity 100% (95%CI 59%–100%), specificity 100% (95%CI 98%–100%)).
The combination of community recruitment, ACASI, rapid testing and a linked diagnostic accuracy study provide enhanced methods for conducting blood borne virus sero-prevalence studies in IDUs. The relatively high uptake of rapid testing suggests that introducing this method in community settings could increase the number of people tested in high risk populations. The high prevalence of HCV and relatively high prevalence of injecting risk behaviour indicate that further HIV transmission is likely in IDUs in both cities. Urgent scale up of HIV prevention interventions is needed.
PMCID: PMC2647543  PMID: 19203380
6.  Co-infection of human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis C and hepatitis B virus among injection drug users in Drop in centers 
Hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are the three prevalent viral and bloodborne infections worldwide. Considering the similar route of transmission in these infections, their co-infections would be more challenging for health care professionals. Therefore, we investigated the rate of HIV/HBV/HCV co-infection among injection drug users (IDUs) referred to Drop in centers (DICs).
Materials and Methods:
In this cross-sectional study (2008-2009), IDUs referred to DICs in Isfahan province were evaluated. Venous blood samples were obtained and HBsAg, HBcAb, HCVAb, and HIVAb measured by using enzyme linked immunosorbent assay method. Demographic data and risk factors in patients with HBV/HCV, HIV/HCV, and HIV/HBV co-infections were obtained by a trained social worker using a structured checklist. Data were analyzed using Chi-square test, t-test, and multiple logistic regressions.
Totally, 539 IDUs with mean (standard deviation [SD]) age of 35.3 (7.9) were studied. HBV/HCV, HCV/HIV, and HBV/HIV co-infections were presented in 65 (12.1%), 6 (1.1%), and 0 (0%) of IDUs, respectively. All HIV infected IDUs were infected with HCV as well. There was a significant association between HBV/HCV co-infection and behaviors related to sharing needle (odds ratio [OR] = 2.06, 95% confidence interval [CI]; 1.23-3.45) and imprisonment (OR = 1.01, 95% CI; 1.04-1.06).
According to the results of this study, history of imprisonment and needle sharing were the only adjusted risk factors for HCV/HBV co-infection in IDUs. This might be a warning for national health system and needs to urgent paying attention. It seems that expanded harm reduction strategies can be useful to reduce this co-infection and its mortality and morbidity rate among IDUs.
PMCID: PMC4078381  PMID: 25002888
Co-infection; Drop in center; hepatitis B virus; hepatitis C virus; human immunodeficiency virus
7.  High Prevalence of HIV, HCV, HBV and Co-Infection and Associated Risk Factors among Injecting Drug Users in Yunnan Province, China 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42937.
To estimate the prevalence of HIV, HCV, HBV and co-infection with 2 or 3 viruses and evaluate risk factors among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Yunnan province, China.
2080 IDUs were recruited from 5 regions of Yunnan Province, China to detect the infection status of HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Statistical analysis was performed to evaluate risk factors related to HIV, HCV and HBV infections.
The infection rates among all participants were 25.5% for HIV, 77.7% for HCV, 19.2% for HBV, 15% for HIV/HCV, 0.3% for HIV/HBV, 7.8% for HCV/HBV and 7.1% for HIV/HCV/HBV. The prevalence of virus infection varied widely by region in Yunnan of China. Statistical analyses indicated that high prevalence of HIV and HCV among IDUs was positively associated with the duration of drug injection and sharing needles/syringes; besides, HCV infection was associated with the frequency of drug injection.
HIV, HCV, HBV infections and co-infections were still very prevalent among IDUs in Yunnan province because of drug use behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3420897  PMID: 22916185
8.  Syringe Acquisition Experiences and Attitudes among Injection Drug Users Undergoing Short-Term Opioid Detoxification in Massachusetts and Rhode Island 
Access to sterile syringes for injection drug users (IDUs) is a critical part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the transmission of HIV, hepatitis C virus, and other bloodborne pathogens. Understanding IDUs’ experiences and attitudes about syringe acquisition is crucial to ensuring adequate syringe supply and access for this population. This study sought to assess and compare IDUs’ syringe acquisition experiences and attitudes and HIV risk behavior in two neighboring states, Massachusetts (MA) and Rhode Island (RI). From March 2008 to May 2009, we surveyed 150 opioid IDUs at detoxification facilities in MA and RI, stratified the sample based on where respondents spent most of their time, and generated descriptive statistics to compare responses among the two groups. A large proportion of our participants (83%) reported pharmacies as a source of syringe in the last 6 months, while only 13% reported syringe exchange programs (SEPs) as a syringe source. Although 91% of our sample reported being able to obtain all of the syringes they needed in the past 6 months, 49% had used syringes or injection equipment previously used by someone else in that same time period. In comparison to syringe acquisition behaviors reported by patients of the same detoxification centers in 2001–2003 (data reported in previous publication), we found notable changes among MA participants. Our results reveal that some IDUs in our sample are still practicing high-risk injection behaviors, indicating a need for expanded and renewed efforts to promote safer injection behavior among IDUs. Our findings also indicate that pharmacies have become an important syringe source for IDUs and may represent a new and important setting in which IDUs can be engaged in a wide array of health services. Efforts should be made to involve pharmacists in providing harm reduction and HIV prevention services to IDUs. Finally, despite limited SEP access (especially in MA), SEPs are still used by approximately one of the three IDUs in our overall sample.
PMCID: PMC3535136  PMID: 22427232
Injection drug users; IDUs; Syringes; Non-prescription syringes; Pharmacy; Syringe; Exchange program; Needle exchange program; Harm reduction
9.  Changes in HIV Incidence among People Who Inject Drugs in Taiwan following Introduction of a Harm Reduction Program: A Study of Two Cohorts 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(4):e1001625.
Kenrad Nelson and colleagues report on the association between HIV incidence and exposure to a national harm-reduction program among people who inject drugs in Taiwan.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Harm reduction strategies for combating HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs (PWID) have been implemented in several countries. However, large-scale studies using sensitive measurements of HIV incidence and intervention exposures in defined cohorts are rare. The aim of this study was to determine the association between harm reduction programs and HIV incidence among PWID.
Methods and Findings
The study included two populations. For 3,851 PWID who entered prison between 2004 and 2010 and tested HIV positive upon incarceration, we tested their sera using a BED HIV-1 capture enzyme immunoassay to estimate HIV incidence. Also, we enrolled in a prospective study a cohort of 4,357 individuals who were released from prison via an amnesty on July 16, 2007. We followed them with interviews at intervals of 6–12 mo and by linking several databases. A total of 2,473 participants who were HIV negative in January 2006 had interviews between then and 2010 to evaluate the association between use of harm reduction programs and HIV incidence. We used survival methods with attendance at methadone clinics as a time-varying covariate to measure the association with HIV incidence. We used a Poisson regression model and calculated the HIV incidence rate to evaluate the association between needle/syringe program use and HIV incidence. Among the population of PWID who were imprisoned, the implementation of comprehensive harm reduction programs and a lower mean community HIV viral load were associated with a reduced HIV incidence among PWID. The HIV incidence in this population of PWID decreased from 18.2% in 2005 to 0.3% in 2010. In an individual-level analysis of the amnesty cohort, attendance at methadone clinics was associated with a significantly lower HIV incidence (adjusted hazard ratio: 0.20, 95% CI: 0.06–0.67), and frequent users of needle/syringe program services had lower HIV incidence (0% in high NSP users, 0.5% in non NSP users). In addition, no HIV seroconversions were detected among prison inmates.
Although our data are affected by participation bias, they strongly suggest that comprehensive harm- reduction services and free treatment were associated with reversal of a rapidly emerging epidemic of HIV among PWID.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
About 35 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and about 2.3 million people become newly infected every year. HIV is mainly transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner. However, people who inject drugs (PWID) have a particularly high risk of HIV infection because blood transfer through needle and syringe sharing can transmit the virus. It is estimated that 5%–10% of all people living with HIV are PWID. Indeed, in some regions of the world the primary route of HIV transmission is through shared drug injection equipment and the prevalence (the proportion of a population that has a specific disease) of HIV infection among PWID is very high. In Asia, for example, more than a quarter of PWID are HIV positive. Because the high prevalence of HIV among PWID poses a global health challenge, bodies such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS endorse harm reduction strategies to prevent risky injection behaviors among PWID. These strategies include the provision of clean needles and syringes, opioid substitution therapy such as methadone maintenance treatment, and antiretroviral treatment for HIV-positive PWID.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although harm reduction strategies for combating HIV epidemics among PWID have been implemented in several countries, few large-scale studies have examined the association between HIV incidence (the proportion of new cases of HIV in a population per year) and exposure to harm reduction programs among PWID. In this cohort study (an investigation that determines the characteristics of a group of people and then follows them over time), the researchers determine the association between harm reduction programs and HIV incidence among PWID in Taiwan. HIV infections used to be rare among the 60,000 PWID living in Taiwan, but after the introduction of a new HIV strain into the country in 2003, an HIV epidemic spread rapidly. In response, the Taiwanese government introduced a pilot program of harm reduction that included the provision of clean needles and syringes and health education in July 2005. The program was expanded to include methadone maintenance treatment in early 2006 and implemented nationwide in June 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled two study populations. The first cohort comprised 3,851 PWID who were incarcerated for illicit drug use between 2004 and 2010 and who tested positive for HIV upon admission into prison. By using the BED assay, which indicates whether an HIV infection is recent, the researchers were able to determine the HIV incidence among the prisoners. In 2004, the estimated HIV incidence among prisoners with a history of drug injection was 6.44%. The incidence peaked in 2005 at 18.2%, but fell to 0.3% in 2010.
The second study population comprised 2,473 individuals who were HIV negative on January 1, 2006, and who had been incarcerated for drug use crimes but were released on July 16, 2007, during an amnesty. The researchers regularly interviewed these participants between their release and 2010 about their use of harm reduction interventions, and obtained other data about them (for example, diagnosis of HIV infection) from official databases. Analysis of all these data indicated that, in this cohort, attendance at methadone maintenance treatment clinics and frequent use of needle and syringe services were both associated with a significantly lower HIV incidence.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the introduction of a comprehensive harm reduction program in Taiwan was associated with a significant reduction in the HIV incidence rate among PWID. These findings must be interpreted with caution, however. First, because the participants in the study were selected from PWID with histories of incarceration, the findings may not be representative of all PWID in Taiwan or of PWID in other countries. Second, PWID who chose to use needle and syringe services or methadone maintenance treatment clinics might have shared other unknown characteristics that affected their risk of HIV infection. Finally, some of the reduction in HIV incidence seen during the study is likely to be associated with the availability of free treatment, which has been offered to all HIV-positive individuals in Taiwan since 1997. Despite these limitations, these findings suggest that countries with a high prevalence and incidence of HIV among PWID should provide comprehensive harm reduction services to their populations to reduce risky drug injection behaviors.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on injecting drug users and HIV/AIDS and on harm reduction and HIV prevention (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse also provides information about drug abuse and HIV/AIDS (in English and Spanish)
The 2013 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, Nam/aidsmap, and Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3979649  PMID: 24714449
10.  Rapid assessment of injection practices in Cambodia, 2002 
BMC Public Health  2005;5:56.
Injection overuse and unsafe injection practices facilitate transmission of bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Anecdotal reports of unsafe and unnecessary therapeutic injections and the high prevalence of HBV (8.0%), HCV (6.5%), and HIV (2.6%) infection in Cambodia have raised concern over injection safety. To estimate the magnitude and patterns of such practices, a rapid assessment of injection practices was conducted.
We surveyed a random sample of the general population in Takeo Province and convenience samples of prescribers and injection providers in Takeo Province and Phnom Penh city regarding injection-related knowledge, attitudes, and practices. Injection providers were observed administering injections. Data were collected using standardized methods adapted from the World Health Organization safe injection assessment guidelines.
Among the general population sample (n = 500), the overall injection rate was 5.9 injections per person-year, with 40% of participants reporting receipt of ≥ 1 injection during the previous 6 months. Therapeutic injections, intravenous infusions, and immunizations accounted for 74%, 16% and 10% of injections, respectively. The majority (>85%) of injections were received in the private sector. All participants who recalled their last injection reported the injection was administered with a newly opened disposable syringe and needle. Prescribers (n = 60) reported that 47% of the total prescriptions they wrote included a therapeutic injection or infusion. Among injection providers (n = 60), 58% recapped the syringe after use and 13% did not dispose of the used needle and syringe appropriately. Over half (53%) of the providers reported a needlestick injury during the previous 12 months. Ninety percent of prescribers and injection providers were aware HBV, HCV, and HIV were transmitted through unsafe injection practices. Knowledge of HIV transmission through "dirty" syringes among the general population was also high (95%).
Our data suggest that Cambodia has one of the world's highest rates of overall injection usage, despite general awareness of associated infection risks. Although there was little evidence of reuse of needles and syringes, support is needed for interventions to address injection overuse, healthcare worker safety and appropriate waste disposal.
PMCID: PMC1173117  PMID: 15929800
11.  Racial Differences in Acquisition of Syringes from Pharmacies under Conditions of Legal but Restricted Sales 
Injecting drug users (IDUs) are at increased risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and other bloodborne pathogens through the multi-person use of syringes. Although research has shown that increased access to syringes through syringe exchange programs (SEPs) is an effective strategy to reduce risky injection practices many areas of the United States still do not have SEPs. In the absence of SEPs, legislation allowing pharmacies over-the-counter sales of syringes has also been shown to reduce syringe sharing. The success of pharmacy sales however is limited by other legal stipulations, such as drug paraphernalia laws, which in turn may contribute to fear among IDUs about being caught purchasing and carrying syringes.
Between 2003 and 2006, 851 out-of-treatment IDUs were recruited using street outreach in the Raleigh-Durham (North Carolina) area. Data were collected using audio-computer assisted interview (ACASI) technology. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to assess factors associated with purchasing syringes from pharmacies.
In our study sample, African-American IDUs were one-fifth as likely as white IDUs to report pharmacies as their primary source of syringes.
Given the absence of syringe exchange programs and the relatively high prevalence of HCV and HIV among IDUs in the Raleigh-Durham area, the limited use of pharmacies as a source of syringes among African-American IDUs in this study sample is problematic. The study findings support the need for effective multilevel interventions to increase access to clean needles in this population, as well as for policy interventions, such as legalization of SEPs and elimination of penalties for carrying syringes, to reduce harm and eliminate the health threats posed by receptive syringe sharing.
PMCID: PMC2926201  PMID: 20097052
Injecting drug users; African-Americans; purchasing syringes; carrying syringes
12.  Access to syringes for HIV prevention for injection drug users in St. Petersburg, Russia: syringe purchase test study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:183.
The HIV epidemic in Russia is concentrated among injection drug users (IDUs). This is especially true for St. Petersburg where high HIV incidence persists among the city’s estimated 80,000 IDUs. Although sterile syringes are legally available, access for IDUs may be hampered. To explore the feasibility of using pharmacies to expand syringe access and provide other prevention services to IDUs, we investigated the current access to sterile syringes at the pharmacies and the correlation between pharmacy density and HIV prevalence in St. Petersburg.
965 pharmacies citywide were mapped, classified by ownership type, and the association between pharmacy density and HIV prevalence at the district level was tested. We selected two districts among the 18 districts – one central and one peripheral – that represented two major types of city districts and contacted all operating pharmacies by phone to inquire if they stocked syringes and obtained details about their stock. Qualitative interviews with 26 IDUs provided data regarding syringe access in pharmacies and were used to formulate hypotheses for the pharmacy syringe purchase test wherein research staff attempted to purchase syringes in all pharmacies in the two districts.
No correlation was found between the density of pharmacies and HIV prevalence at the district level. Of 108 operating pharmacies, 38 (35%) did not sell syringes of the types used by IDUs; of these, half stocked but refused to sell syringes to research staff, and the other half did not stock syringes at all. Overall 70 (65%) of the pharmacies did sell syringes; of these, 49 pharmacies sold single syringes without any restrictions and 21 offered packages of ten.
Trainings for pharmacists need to be conducted to reduce negative attitudes towards IDUs and increase pharmacists’ willingness to sell syringes. At a structural level, access to safe injection supplies for IDUs could be increased by including syringes in the federal list of mandatory medical products sold by pharmacies.
PMCID: PMC3616994  PMID: 23452390
Injection drug use; HIV prevention; Syringe access; Pharmacy
13.  Prevalence and correlates of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C infection and harm reduction program use among male injecting drug users in Kabul, Afghanistan: A cross-sectional assessment 
A nascent HIV epidemic and high prevalence of risky drug practices were detected among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2005-2006. We assessed prevalence of HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), syphilis, and needle and syringe program (NSP) use among this population.
IDUs were recruited between June, 2007 and March, 2009 and completed questionnaires and rapid testing for HIV, HCV, HBsAg, and syphilis; positive samples received confirmatory testing. Logistic regression was used to identify correlates of HIV, HCV, and current NSP use.
Of 483 participants, all were male and median age, age at first injection, and duration of injection were 28, 24, and 2.0 years, respectively. One-fifth (23.0%) had initiated injecting within the last year. Reported risky injecting practices included ever sharing needles/syringes (16.9%) or other injecting equipment (38.4%). Prevalence of HIV, HCV Ab, HBSAg, and syphilis was 2.1% (95% CI: 1.0-3.8), 36.1% (95% CI: 31.8-40.4), 4.6% (95% CI: 2.9-6.9), and 1.2% (95% CI: 0.5-2.7), respectively. HIV and HCV infection were both independently associated with sharing needles/syringes (AOR = 5.96, 95% CI: 1.58 - 22.38 and AOR = 2.33, 95% CI: 1.38 - 3.95, respectively). Approximately half (53.8%) of the participants were using NSP services at time of enrollment and 51.3% reported receiving syringes from NSPs in the last three months. Current NSP use was associated with initiating drug use with injecting (AOR = 2.58, 95% CI: 1.22 - 5.44), sharing injecting equipment in the last three months (AOR = 1.79, 95% CI: 1.16 - 2.77), prior incarceration (AOR = 1.57, 95% CI: 1.06 - 2.32), and greater daily frequency of injecting (AOR = 1.40 injections daily, 95% CI: 1.08 - 1.82).
HIV and HCV prevalence appear stable among Kabul IDUs, though the substantial number having recently initiated injecting raises concern that transmission risk may increase over time. Harm reduction programming appears to be reaching high-risk drug user populations; however, monitoring is warranted to determine efficacy of prevention programming in this dynamic environment.
PMCID: PMC3180253  PMID: 21867518
injection drug user; Afghanistan; HIV; hepatitis C; harm reduction
14.  Infection disclosure in the injecting dyads of Hungarian and Lithuanian injecting drug users who self-reported being infected with hepatitis C virus or human immunodeficiency virus 
The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence and correlates of disclosure to network members of being hepatitis C virus (HCV)- or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected among injecting dyads of infected injection drug users (IDUs) in Budapest, Hungary and Vilnius, Lithuania,. Multivariate generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to assess associations. Very strong infection disclosure norms exist in Hungary, and HCV disclosure was associated with using drugs and having sex within the dyad. Non-ethnic Russian IDUs in Lithuania were more likely to disclose HCV infection to non-Roma, emotionally close and HCV-infected network members, and to those with whom they shared cookers, filters, drug solutions or rinse water or got used syringes from, and if they had fewer non-IDU or IDU network members. Ethnic Russian Lithuanian IDUs were more likely to disclose HCV if they had higher disclosure attitude and knowledge scores, ‘trusted’ network members, and had lower non-injecting network density and higher injecting network density. HIV-infected Lithuanian IDUs were more likely to disclose to ‘trusted’ network members. Disclosure norms matched disclosure behaviour in Hungary, while disclosure in Lithuania to ‘trusted’ network members suggests possible stigmatization. Ongoing free and confidential HCV/HIV testing services for IDUs are needed to emphasize and strengthen disclosure norms, and to decrease stigma.
PMCID: PMC3074185  PMID: 20840002
15.  New York City pharmacists' attitudes toward sale of needles/syringes to injection drug users before implementation of law expanding syringe access 
In May 2000, New York State passed legislation permitting the sale, purchase, and possession of up to 10 needles and syringes (hereafter “syringes”) without a prescription, intended to reduce blood-borne pathogen transmission among injection drug users (IDUs). To obtain baseline data on pharmacists' attitudes and practices related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and IDUs, a telephone survey was administered to 130 pharmacists systematically selected in New York City. Less than half of pharmacists were aware of the new law; 49.6% were willing to or supported providing nonprescription sales of syringes to IDUs. Pharmacists in support tended to be less likely to consider customer appearance “very important.” Managing and supervising pharmacists were more likely than staff pharmacists to support syringe sales to IDUs. Managing and supervising pharmacists who stocked packs of 10 syringes and personal sharps disposal containers, pharmacists who supported syringe exchange in the pharmacy, and pharmacists who were willing to sell syringes to diabetics without a prescription were more likely to support syringe sales to IDUs. Syringe disposal was a prominent concern among all pharmacists. Those not in support of syringe sales to IDUs tended to be more likely to believe the practice would increase drug use. These data suggest the need for initiatives to address concerns about syringe disposal and tailored continuing education classes for pharmacists on HIV and viral hepatitis prevention among IDUs.
PMCID: PMC3456774  PMID: 11194317
16.  A national physician survey on prescribing syringes as an HIV prevention measure 
Access to sterile syringes is a proven means of reducing the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), viral hepatitis, and bacterial infections among injection drug users. In many U.S. states and territories, drug paraphernalia and syringe prescription laws are barriers to syringe access for injection drug users (IDUs): pharmacists may be reluctant to sell syringes to suspected IDUs, and police may confiscate syringes or arrest IDUs who cannot demonstrate a "legitimate" medical need for the syringes they possess. These barriers can be addressed by physician prescription of syringes. This study evaluates physicians' willingness to prescribe syringes, using the theory of planned behavior to identify key behavioral influences.
We mailed a survey to a representative sample of physicians from the American Medical Association physician database. Non-responding physicians were then called, faxed, or re-sent the survey, up to four times.
Twenty percent responded to the survey. Although less than 1 percent of respondents had ever prescribed syringes to a known injection drug user, more than 60% of respondents reported that they would be willing to do so. Physicians' willingness to prescribe syringes was best predicted by the belief that it was a feasible and effective intervention, but individual and peer attitudes were also significant.
This was the first nationwide survey of the physician willingness to prescribe syringes to IDUs. While the majority of respondents were willing to consider syringe prescription in their clinical practices, multiple challenges need to be addressed in order to improve physician knowledge and attitudes toward IDUs.
PMCID: PMC2700789  PMID: 19505336
17.  HCV Infection Prevalence Lower Than Expected among 18–40-Year-Old Injection Drug Users in San Diego, CA 
San Diego, California shares the world’s busiest land border crossing with Tijuana, Mexico—a city where 95 % of injection drug users (IDUs) test hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody-positive. Yet, little is known about the prevalence and risk behaviors for HCV among IDUs in San Diego. In 2009–2010, 18–40-year-old IDUs in San Diego County completed a risk assessment interview and serologic testing for HCV and HIV infection. Recruitment involved respondent-driven sampling, venue-based sampling at a syringe exchange program, and convenience sampling. Correlates of HCV infection were identified by multivariable logistic regression. Among 510 current IDUs, 26.9 % (95 % CI 23.0–30.7 %) and 4.2 % (95 % CI 2.4–5.9 %) had been infected with HCV and HIV, respectively. Overall, median age was 28 years; 74 % were male; 60 % white and 29 % Hispanic; and 96 % were born in the U.S. Median years of injecting was 6; 41 % injected daily; 60 % injected heroin most often; 49 % receptively shared syringes and 68 % shared other injection paraphernalia; and only 22 % reported always using new syringes in the past 3 months. Two thirds had ever traveled to Mexico and 19 % injected in Mexico. HCV infection was independently associated with sharing injection paraphernalia (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.69) and SEP use (AOR = 2.17) in the previous 3 months, lifetime history of drug overdose (AOR = 2.66), and increased years of injecting (AOR = 2.82, all P values <0.05). Controlling for recruitment method did not alter results. HCV infection prevalence among IDUs in San Diego was modest compared to other US cities and much lower than Tijuana. Given that known individual-level HCV risk factors were common in San Diego, the city’s lower HCV prevalence might be due to differences in social and structural factors between the cities.
PMCID: PMC3665980  PMID: 22766605
Hepatitis C virus; Injection drug use; Risk behaviors; Prevalence; Human immunodeficiency virus; Border region
18.  Incarceration is a major risk factor for blood-borne infection among intravenous drug users 
Hepatitis Monthly  2011;11(1):19-22.
There is a strong association between hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection which are mainly transmitted by contamination with blood via intravenous drug abuse (IVDU) or sexual contact.
To determine the prevalence of these infections and the risk factors associated with them among prisoner and non-prisoner IVDUs in Tehran, Iran.
Patients and Methods
This cross-sectional study was performed in two jails and three drug rehabilitation centers between 2001 and 2002 in Tehran. HBsAg and HBcAb were checked using highly specific third generation enzyme immunoassays (DIA.PRO, Italy, specificity >99%, and Radim, Italy, specificity 99.7%, respectively). HCVAb was detected using ELISA (DIA.PRO, Italy) with both sensitivity and specificity >98%. HIVAb test (DRG Diagnostics kit, Germany) was performed for 459 of the 468 IDU subjects.
392 prisoners and 135 individual attending drug rehabilitation centers were approached. Of the 518 subjects studied, 464 (89.5%) were male, 386 (74.5%) were prisoners and 132 (25.5%) were non-prisoners. In this study, HBsAg, HCVAb and HIVAb were positive in 19 (3.7%), 359 (69.5%) and 70 (15.5%) of subjects, respectively. These tests were positive in 17 (4.5%), 311 (80.5%) and 63 (17%) among prisoners and 2 (1.5%), 48 (36.5%) and 7 (7.8%) in non-prisoners, respectively. Multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that independent factors related to co-infection of HCV and HIV infection were imprisonment (p<0.001. OR: 7.5) and using common syringe (p=0.03, OR: 4.5).
Our findings strongly suggest that drug injection inside prison carries is a risk for HIV infection and that HIV infection among IDUs is likely to be bridged to the broader population through sexual contact without using effective prevention programs.
PMCID: PMC3206659  PMID: 22087111
Hepatitis B Hepatitis C; HIV; Intravenous drug abuse; Prison
19.  Risks for HIV, HBV, and HCV infections among male injection drug users in northern Vietnam: A case-control study 
AIDS care  2009;21(1):7-16.
Injection drug use (IDU) and HIV infection are important public health problems in Vietnam. The IDU population increased 70% from 2000 to 2004 and is disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS--the country’s second leading cause of death. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) share transmission routes with HIV and cause serious medical consequences. This study aimed to determine risk factors for acquisition of HIV, HBV, and HCV infections among IDUs in a northern province. We conducted a matched case-control study among active IDUs aged 18–45 who participated in a community-based survey (30-minute interview and serologic testing). Each HIV-infected IDU (case) was matched with one HIV-uninfected IDU (control) by age, sex (males only), and study site (128 pairs). Similar procedures were used for HBV infection (50 pairs) and HCV infection (65 pairs). Conditional logistic regression models were fit to identify risk factors for each infection. Among 309 surveyed IDUs, the HIV, HBV, and HCV prevalence was 42.4%, 80.9%, and 74.1%, respectively. Only 11.0% reported having been vaccinated against hepatitis B. While 13.3% of the IDUs reported sharing needles (past 6 months), 63.8% engaged in indirect sharing practices (past 6 months), including sharing drug solutions, containers, rinse water, and frontloading drugs. In multivariable models, sharing drugs through frontloading was significantly associated with HIV infection (odds ratio [OR] = 2.8), HBV infection (OR = 3.8), and HCV infection (OR = 4.6). We report an unrecognized association between sharing drugs through frontloading and higher rates of HIV, HBV and HCV infections among male IDUs in Vietnam. This finding may have important implications for bloodborne viral prevention for IDUs in Vietnam.
PMCID: PMC2869448  PMID: 19085215
HIV; hepatitis B virus; hepatitis C virus; Vietnam; substance abuse
20.  The association of syringe type and syringe cleaning with HCV infection among IDUs in Budapest, Hungary 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2008;100(3):240-247.
We assessed whether syringe type, syringe cleaning and distributive syringe sharing were associated with self-reported and laboratory confirmed HCV infection among Hungarian IDUs. Injecting drug users (N=215) were recruited from non-treatment settings in Budapest, Hungary between October 2005 and December 2006. Multivariate logistic regression models identified correlates of self-report of being HCV infected and testing positive for HCV. While 37% tested positive for HCV, 14% of the total (39% of those who tested positive) self-reported being HCV infected. Using any two piece syringes was significantly associated with self-reported HCV infection, while distributive syringe sharing was not associated with self-report of being HCV infected. Engaging in receptive sharing of only one-piece syringes but always cleaning before reuse was not associated with testing HCV positive, while any receptive sharing of only one-piece syringes and not always cleaning before reuse was significantly associated with testing HCV positive. Sharing cookers and squirting drugs from one syringe into another syringe were not associated with testing HCV positive. The high percent of those HCV infected who did not know they were infected highlights the need to provide better access to confidential testing and counseling services. Counseling should emphasize secondary prevention of HCV among HCV infected IDUs. Our findings also indicate that syringe type and syringe cleaning practices may play a role in HCV transmission. Ethnographic research should identify the reasons why IDUs may use two-piece syringes and suggest means to reduce their use. Thorough cleaning of one-piece syringes when sterile syringes are unavailable may be an efficient way to reduce the risk of HCV infection.
PMCID: PMC2628960  PMID: 19058925
HCV infection; one-piece and two-piece syringes; syringe cleaning; minorities; Central Europe
21.  Pharmacy access to syringes among injecting drug users: follow-up findings from Hartford, Connecticut. 
Public Health Reports  1998;113(Suppl 1):81-89.
OBJECTIVE: To break the link between drug use and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), in 1992 the state of Connecticut rescinded a 14-year ban on pharmacy sales of syringes without a physician's prescription. In 1993, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evaluated the impact of the new legislation on access to syringes among injecting drug users (IDUs) and found an initial pattern of expanded access. However, it also found that some pharmacies, after negative experiences with IDU customers, reverted to requiring a prescription. This chapter reports findings from a four-year follow-up study of current IDU access to over-the-counter (OTC) pharmacy syringes in Hartford, Connecticut. METHODS: Through structured interviews, brief telephone interviews, and mailed surveys, data on nonprescription syringe sale practices were collected on 27 pharmacies, including 18 of the 21 pharmacies in Hartford and none from pharmacies in contiguous towns, during June and July 1997. Interview data on pharmacy syringe purchase from two sample of IDUs, a group of out-of-treatment injectors recruited through street outreach, and a sample of users of the Hartford Needle Exchange Program, also are reported. RESULTS: The study found that, while market trends as well as negative experiences have further limited pharmacy availability of nonprescription syringes, pharmacies remain an important source of sterile syringes for IDUs. However, the distribution of access in not even; in some areas of the city it is much easier to purchase nonprescription syringes than in other. All of the seven pharmacies located on the north end of Hartford reported that they had a policy of selling OTC syringes, whereas only six (54.5%) of the II pharmacies located on the south end have such a policy. Overt racial discrimination was not found to be a barrier to OTC access to syringes. CONCLUSIONS: To further decrease acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) risk among IDUs, there is a need for public education to counter empirically unsupported stereotypes about IDUs that diminish their access to health care and AIDS prevention resources and services. In states or cities where pharmacy sale of nonprescription syringes is illegal, policy makers should examine the benefits of removing existing barriers to sterile syringe acquisition. In cases in which pharmacy sale of nonprescription syringes is legal, local health departments should implement educational programs to inform pharmacy staff and management about the critically important role low-cost (or cost-free), sterile syringe access can play in HIV prevention.
PMCID: PMC1307730  PMID: 9722813
22.  High Dead-Space Syringes and the Risk of HIV and HCV Infection among Injecting Drug Users 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2008;100(3):204-213.
This study examines the association between using and sharing high dead-space syringes (HDSSs)—which retain over 1,000 times more blood after rinsing than low dead-space syringes (LDSSs)—and prevalent HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections among injecting drug users (IDUs). A sample of 851 out-of-treatment IDUs was recruited in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, between 2003 and 2005. Participants were tested for HIV and HCV antibodies. Demographic, drug use, and injection practice data were collected via interviews. Data were analyzed using multiple logistic regression analysis. Participants had a mean age of 40 years and 74% percent are male, 63% are African American, 29% are non-Hispanic white, and 8% are of other race/ethnicity. Overall, 42% of participants had ever used an HDSS and 12% had shared one. HIV prevalence was 5% among IDUs who had never used an HDSS compared with 16% among IDUs who had shared one. The HIV model used a propensity score approach to adjust for differences between IDUs who had used an HDSS and those who had never used one. The HCV models included all potential confounders as covariates. A history of sharing HDSSs was associated with prevalent HIV (Odds Ratio = 2.50; 95% Confidence Interval = 1.01, 6.15). Use and sharing of HDSSs were also associated with increased odds of HCV infection. Prospective studies are needed to determine if sharing HDSSs is associated with increased HIV and HCV incidence among IDUs.
PMCID: PMC2654245  PMID: 19004579
High dead-space syringes; Hepatitis C virus; HIV; Injecting drug users; Risk factors
23.  Survival of Hepatitis C Virus in Syringes: Implication for Transmission among Injection Drug Users 
The Journal of infectious diseases  2010;202(7):984-990.
We hypothesized that the high prevalence of HCV among injection drug users (IDUs) might be due to prolonged virus survival in contaminated syringes.
We developed a microculture assay to examine the viability of HCV. Syringes were loaded with blood spiked with HCV reporter virus (Jc1/GLuc2A) to simulate two scenarios of residual volumes; low (2 μl) void volume for 1-ml insulin syringes, and high (32 μl) void volume for 1-ml tuberculin syringes. Syringes were stored at 4°C, 22°C, and 37°C for up to 63 days before testing for HCV infectivity using luciferase activity.
The virus decay rate was biphasic (t½ α = 0.4h and t½β = 28h). Insulin syringes failed to yield viable HCV beyond day one at all storage temperatures except for 4o in which 5% of syringes yielded viable virus on day 7. Tuberculin syringes yielded viable virus from 96%, 71%, and 52% of syringes following storage at 4o, 22° and 37o for 7 days, respectively, and yielded viable virus up to day 63.
The high prevalence of HCV among IDUs may be partly due to the resilience of the virus and the syringe type. Our findings may be used to guide prevention strategies.
PMCID: PMC2932767  PMID: 20726768
Hepatitis C virus; injection drug users; syringes; survival; transmission; luciferase activity
24.  Self-Reported Hepatitis C Virus Antibody Status and Risk Behavior in Young Injectors 
Public Health Reports  2006;121(6):710-719.
This study was conducted to assess the accuracy of self-reported hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody (anti-HCV) serostatus in injection drug users (IDUs), and examine whether self-reported anti-HCV serostatus was associated with recent injection risk behavior.
In five U.S. cities (Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle), 3,004 IDUs from 15 to 30 years old were recruited for a baseline interview to determine eligibility for a randomized controlled trial of a behavioral intervention. HIV and HCV antibody testing were performed, and subject data (e.g., demographics, drug and sexual risk behavior, and history of HIV and HCV testing) were collected via audio computer-administered self-interview. Risk behavior during the previous three months was compared to self-reported anti-HCV serostatus.
Anti-HCV prevalence in this sample of young IDUs was 34.1%. Seventy-two percent of anti-HCV-positive and 46% of anti-HCV-negative IDUs in this sample were not aware of their HCV serostatus. Drug treatment or needle exchange use was associated with increased awareness of HCV serostatus. Anti-HCV-negative IDUs who knew their serostatus were less likely than those unaware of their status to inject with a syringe used by another IDU or to share cottons to filter drug solutions. Knowledge of one's positive anti-HCV status was not associated with safer injection practices.
Few anti-HCV-positive IDUs in this study were aware of their serostatus. Expanded availability of HCV screening with high quality counseling is clearly needed for this population to promote the health of chronically HCV-infected IDUs and to decrease risk among injectors susceptible to acquiring or transmitting HCV.
PMCID: PMC1781913  PMID: 17278406
25.  Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Expanding Harm Reduction and Antiretroviral Therapy in a Mixed HIV Epidemic: A Modeling Analysis for Ukraine 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000423.
A cost-effectiveness study by Sabina Alistar and colleagues evaluates the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different levels of investment in methadone, ART, or both, in the mixed HIV epidemic in Ukraine.
Injection drug use (IDU) and heterosexual virus transmission both contribute to the growing mixed HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In Ukraine—chosen in this study as a representative country—IDU-related risk behaviors cause half of new infections, but few injection drug users (IDUs) receive methadone substitution therapy. Only 10% of eligible individuals receive antiretroviral therapy (ART). The appropriate resource allocation between these programs has not been studied. We estimated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strategies for expanding methadone substitution therapy programs and ART in mixed HIV epidemics, using Ukraine as a case study.
Methods and Findings
We developed a dynamic compartmental model of the HIV epidemic in a population of non-IDUs, IDUs using opiates, and IDUs on methadone substitution therapy, stratified by HIV status, and populated it with data from the Ukraine. We considered interventions expanding methadone substitution therapy, increasing access to ART, or both. We measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, infections averted, and incremental cost-effectiveness. Without incremental interventions, HIV prevalence reached 67.2% (IDUs) and 0.88% (non-IDUs) after 20 years. Offering methadone substitution therapy to 25% of IDUs reduced prevalence most effectively (to 53.1% IDUs, 0.80% non-IDUs), and was most cost-effective, averting 4,700 infections and adding 76,000 QALYs compared with no intervention at US$530/QALY gained. Expanding both ART (80% coverage of those eligible for ART according to WHO criteria) and methadone substitution therapy (25% coverage) was the next most cost-effective strategy, adding 105,000 QALYs at US$1,120/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy and averting 8,300 infections versus no intervention. Expanding only ART (80% coverage) added 38,000 QALYs at US$2,240/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy, and averted 4,080 infections versus no intervention. Offering ART to 80% of non-IDUs eligible for treatment by WHO criteria, but only 10% of IDUs, averted only 1,800 infections versus no intervention and was not cost effective.
Methadone substitution therapy is a highly cost-effective option for the growing mixed HIV epidemic in Ukraine. A strategy that expands both methadone substitution therapy and ART to high levels is the most effective intervention, and is very cost effective by WHO criteria. When expanding ART, access to methadone substitution therapy provides additional benefit in infections averted. Our findings are potentially relevant to other settings with mixed HIV epidemics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are mainly driven by increasing use of injection drugs combined with heterosexual transmission. In the Ukraine, in 2007, there were 82,000 officially registered people living with HIV—three times the number registered in 1999—and an estimated 395,000 HIV infected adults. The epidemic in Ukraine, like other countries in the region, is concentrated in at-risk populations, particularly people who inject drugs: in 2007, an estimated 390,000 Ukrainians were injecting drugs, an increase in drug use over the previous decade, not only in Ukraine, but in other former USSR states, owing to the easy availability of precursors for injection drugs in a climate of economic collapse.
The common practices of people who inject drugs in Ukraine and in other countries in the region, such as social injecting, syringe sharing, and using common containers, increase the risk of transmitting HIV. Public health interventions such as needle exchange can limit these risk factors and have been gradually implemented in these countries. In 2007, Ukraine approved the use of methadone substitution therapy and the current target is for 11,000 people who inject drugs to be enrolled in substitution therapy by 2011. Furthermore, since treatment for HIV-infected individuals is also necessary, national HIV control plans included a target of 90% antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage by 2010 but in 2007 less than 10% of the 91,000 eligible people received treatment. Although the number of people who inject drugs and who receive ART is unknown, physicians are often reluctant to treat people who inject drugs using ART owing to alleged poor compliance.
Why Was This Study Done?
As resources for HIV interventions in the region are limited, it is important to investigate the appropriate balance between investments in methadone substitution therapy and ART in order to maximize benefits to public health. Several studies have analyzed the cost effectiveness of methadone substitution therapy in similar settings but have not considered tradeoffs between ART and methadone substitution therapy. Therefore, to provide insights into the appropriate public health investment in methadone substitution therapy and ART in Ukraine, the researchers evaluated the public health effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different strategies for scaling up methadone substitution therapy and/or expanding ART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a model to accommodate different population groups: people who inject drugs on substitution therapy with methadone; people who inject opiates and do not take any substitution therapy; and people who do not inject any drugs, hence do not need substitution therapy. The researchers inputted Ukraine country-level data into this model and used current HIV trends in Ukraine to make rational assumptions on possible future trends and scenarios. They considered scenarios expanding methadone substitution therapy availability, increasing acces to ART, or both. Then, the researchers measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, infections averted, and incremental cost effectiveness for the different scenarios. They found that after 20 years, HIV prevalence reached 67.2% in people who inject drugs and 0.88% in people who do not inject drugs without further interventions. Offering methadone substitution therapy to 25% of people who inject drugs was the most effective strategy in reducing prevalence of HIV and was also the most cost effective, averting 4,700 infections and adding 75,700 QALYs versus the status quo at $530/QALY gained. Expanding both methadone substitution therapy and ART was also a highly cost effective option, adding 105,000 QALYs at US$1,120/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy. Offering ART to 80% of eligible people who did not inject drugs, and 10% of people who injected drugs averted only 1,800 infections, and added 76,400 QALYs at $1,330/QALY gained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results show that methadone substitution-focused therapeutic scenarios are the most cost effective, and that benefits increase with the scale of the project, even among people who do not inject drugs. This makes a methadone substitution strategy a highly cost-effective option for addressing the growing HIV epidemic in Ukraine. Therefore, if it is not feasible to invest in large-scale methadone substitution programs for any reason, political circumstances for example, providing as much methadone substitution as is acceptable is still desirable. While substitution therapy appears to avert the most HIV infections, expanded ART provides the largest total increase in QALYs. Thus, methadone substitution therapy and ART offer complementary benefits. Because the HIV epidemic in Ukraine is representative of the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the cost-effective strategies that the researchers have identified may help inform all decision makers faced with a mixed HIV epidemic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Alliance provides information on its work supporting community action on AIDS in Ukraine
USAID provides an HIV/AIDS Health Profile for Ukraine
UNICEF provides information about its activities to help Ukraine fight rising HIV/AIDS infection rates
International Harm Reduction Association provides information about the status of harm reduction interventions such as methadone substitution therapy around the world
PMCID: PMC3046988  PMID: 21390264

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