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1.  Comparison of injecting drug users who obtain syringes from pharmacies and syringe exchange programs in Tallinn, Estonia 
Background
Both syringe exchange programs (SEPs) and pharmacy sales of syringes are available in Estonia, though the current high incidence and high prevalence of HIV among injection drug users (IDUs) in Tallinn, Estonia requires large-scale implementation of additional harm reduction programs as a matter of great urgency. The aims of this report were to compare risk behavior and HIV infection and to assess the prevention needs among IDUs who primarily use pharmacies as their source of sterile syringes with IDUs who primarily use SEPs in Tallinn.
Methods
A cross-sectional study using respondent-driven sampling was used to recruit 350 IDUs for an interviewer-administered survey and HIV testing. IDUs were categorized into two groups based on their self-reported main source for syringes within the last six months. Odds ratios with 95% CI were used to compare characteristics and risk factors between the groups.
Results
The main sources of sterile needles for injection drug users were SEP/SEP outreach (59%) and pharmacies (41%). There were no differences in age, age at injection drug use initiation, the main drug used or experiencing overdoses. Those IDUs using pharmacies as a main source of sterile needles had lower odds for being infected with either HIV (AOR 0.54 95% CI 0.33–0.87) or HCV (AOR 0.10 95% CI 0.02–0.50), had close to twice the odds of reporting more than one sexual partner within the previous 12 months (AOR 1.88 95% CI 1.17–3.04) and engaging in casual sexual relationships (AOR 2.09 95% CI 1.24–3.53) in the last six months.
Conclusion
The data suggest that the pharmacy users were at a less "advanced" stage of their injection career and had lower HIV prevalence than SEP users. This suggests that pharmacies could be utilized as a site for providing additional HIV prevention messages, services for IDUs and in linking IDUs with existing harm reduction services.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-6-3
PMCID: PMC2653475  PMID: 19232088
2.  Health and Human Rights Concerns of Drug Users in Detention in Guangxi Province, China 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e234.
Background
Although confinement in drug detoxification (“detox”) and re-education through labor (RTL) centers is the most common form of treatment for drug dependence in China, little has been published about the experience of drug users in such settings. We conducted an assessment of the impact of detention on drug users' access to HIV prevention and treatment services and consequent threats to fundamental human rights protections.
Methods and Findings
Chinese government HIV and anti-narcotics legislation and policy documents were reviewed, and in-depth and key informant interviews were conducted with 19 injection drug users (IDUs) and 20 government and nongovernmental organization officials in Nanning and Baise, Guangxi Province. Significant contradictions were found in HIV and antinarcotics policies, exemplified by the simultaneous expansion of community-based methadone maintenance therapy and the increasing number of drug users detained in detox and RTL center facilities. IDU study participants reported, on average, having used drugs for 14 y (range 8–23 y) and had been confined to detox four times (range one to eight times) and to RTL centers once (range zero to three times). IDUs expressed an intense fear of being recognized by the police and being detained, regardless of current drug use. Key informants and IDUs reported that routine HIV testing, without consent and without disclosure of the result, was the standard policy of detox and RTL center facilities, and that HIV-infected detainees were not routinely provided medical or drug dependency treatment, including antiretroviral therapy. IDUs received little or no information or means of HIV prevention, but reported numerous risk behaviors for HIV transmission while detained.
Conclusions
Legal and policy review, and interviews with recently detained IDUs and key informants in Guangxi Province, China, found evidence of anti-narcotics policies and practices that appear to violate human rights and imperil drug users' health.
Based on their review of Chinese government legislation and policy documents, and using interviews with recently detained injection drug users and officials in Guangxi Province, Elizabeth Cohen and Joseph Amon find evidence of antinarcotics policies and practices that may compromise the health and human rights of drug users.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Ever since the AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) epidemic began, needle sharing by injection drug users (IDUs) has been a major transmission route for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the blood-borne virus that causes AIDS. In China, for example, the AIDS epidemic began in earnest in 1989 when 146 HIV-positive IDUs were identified in Southwest Yunnan. By 1998, HIV infections had been reported throughout China, 60%–70% of which were in IDUs. These days, nearly half of new HIV infections in China are associated with injection drug use and 266,000 of the 700,000 HIV-positive people in China are drug users. Faced with these figures, the Chinese government has recently introduced measures to reduce HIV transmission among the estimated 3–4 million IDUs in China. These measures include increased provision of methadone maintenance treatment clinics and needle exchanges and the establishment of HIV prevention programs that target IDUs.
Why Was This Study Done?
Alongside these progressive public-health practices, China has extremely punitive anti-narcotics policies. IDUs are routinely confined without legal review in drug detoxification centers or sent to re-education through labor (RTL) centers, sometimes for many years. In 2005, these centers housed more than 350,000 drug users yet little is known about the conditions in these centers or how the Chinese anti-narcotic policy affects human rights or access to HIV prevention and treatment services. In this study, the researchers investigated these issues by interviewing IDUs and “key informants” (government officials and members of nongovernmental organizations [NGOs] who provide services to IDUs) about their experiences of detoxification centers and RTL centers in two cities in Guangxi Province, China.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited 19 IDUs who had been recently confined in a detoxification center or RTL center and 20 key informants (including a doctor at a detoxification center and a former RTL center guard). In the interviews the researchers used a semi-structured questionnaire to ask the participants about their experiences of detoxification centers and RTL centers. All the IDUs reported that they were repeatedly tested for HIV while in detention but never given their test results even when they asked for them. Key informants confirmed that repeated HIV testing without result disclosure is the current policy in detoxification centers and RTL centers. All the IDUs expressed concerns about inadequate access to health care in detention. In particular, most of the IDUs who were taking antiretroviral drugs before detention were unable to continue their treatment during detention, although two received antiretroviral drugs by negotiating with their guards. The IDUs and key informants also both noted that very little information or means of HIV prevention was provided in the detoxification centers and RTL centers and that HIV-related risk behaviors, including injection drug use and unsafe sex, occurred in both types of center. Finally, the IDUs reported that their fear of being recognized by the police and detained even if not taking drugs prevented them from seeking HIV tests, HIV treatment, and help for their drug addiction.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study has several limitations in addition to its small size. For example, because the IDUs were self selected—they responded to posters asking if they would be interviewed—their views may not be representative of all IDUs. Similarly, the key informants who were interviewed might have had different opinions from those who chose not to participate. Furthermore, the results reported here cannot be generalized to other areas of China. Nevertheless, the consistent experiences reported by the IDUs and confirmed by the key informants suggest that China's anti-narcotic policies and practices violate the human rights of IDUs and put their health in danger by making it hard for them to access HIV prevention and treatment or adequate treatment for their drug addiction. This situation, if not remedied, is likely to jeopardize China's attempts to control its HIV epidemic.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050234.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Steve Koester
Avert, an international AIDS charity, provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including HIV and AIDS in China and HIV prevention, harm reduction, and injecting drug use
The UNAIDS 2008 Country Progress Report provides up-to-date details about the AIDS situation in China
HIVInSite provides links to more information about HIV/AIDS in China.
Human Rights Watch works on health and human rights and human rights developments in China
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a booklet entitled Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide (in English and Spanish)
UN Office on Drugs and Crime has information on HIV/AIDS in prisons
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050234
PMCID: PMC2596857  PMID: 19071954
3.  Commentary on Vorobjov et al., "Comparison of injection drug users who obtain syringes from pharmacies and syringe exchange programs in Tallinn, Estonia" 
Recent data suggest that globally, between 5% and 10% of all new HIV cases are the result of unsafe injecting practices, and experts agree that reducing these practices is key to tackling the spread of HIV. And yet, despite the overwhelming evidence that providing sterile syringes to injection drug users (IDU) through syringe exchange programs (SEPs) or other means is an effective way of reducing HIV transmission among high-risk subpopulations, IDU in most settings still do not have access to sterile injecting equipment or if they do, access remains too restricted to effectively reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Vorobjov and colleagues have presented in this journal an interesting and timely study from Estonia comparing individuals who obtain syringes from SEPs and those who obtain syringes from pharmacies. As the authors point out, Estonia faces an unacceptably high HIV incidence rate of 50 new HIV cases per 100,000, this rate driven primarily by injection drug use. As such, the authors argue that Estonia's SEP network does not have the capacity to serve a growing IDU population at risk of transmitting HIV and pharmacy dispensation of clean syringes may be one potential approach to decreasing syringe sharing among high-risk injectors. It may be overly optimistic to consider the impact of higher threshold interventions such as pharmacy-based SEPs, given that IDU populations that engage in HIV risk behaviours such as syringe sharing are often hidden or hard to reach. Despite the need for a cautious approach, however, the findings presented by Vorobjov et al. may chart one potential course towards a more comprehensive societal response to reducing the health harms associated with injection drug use.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-6-33
PMCID: PMC2789049  PMID: 19943944
4.  Expanded syringe exchange programs and reduced HIV infection among new injection drug users in Tallinn, Estonia 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:517.
Background
Estonia has experienced an HIV epidemic among intravenous drug users (IDUs) with the highest per capita HIV prevalence in Eastern Europe. We assessed the effects of expanded syringe exchange programs (SEP) in the capital city, Tallinn, which has an estimated 10,000 IDUs.
Methods
SEP implementation was monitored with data from the Estonian National Institute for Health Development. Respondent driven sampling (RDS) interview surveys with HIV testing were conducted in Tallinn in 2005, 2007 and 2009 (involving 350, 350 and 327 IDUs respectively). HIV incidence among new injectors (those injecting for < = 3 years) was estimated by assuming (1) new injectors were HIV seronegative when they began injecting, and (2) HIV infection occurred at the midpoint between first injection and time of interview.
Results
SEP increased from 230,000 syringes exchanged in 2005 to 440,000 in 2007 and 770,000 in 2009. In all three surveys, IDUs were predominantly male (80%), ethnic Russians (>80%), and young adults (mean ages 24 to 27 years). The proportion of new injectors decreased significantly over the years (from 21% in 2005 to 12% in 2009, p = 0.005). HIV prevalence among all respondents stabilized at slightly over 50% (54% in 2005, 55% in 2007, 51% in 2009), and decreased among new injectors (34% in 2005, 16% in 2009, p = 0.046). Estimated HIV incidence among new injectors decreased significantly from 18/100 person-years in 2005 and 21/100 person-years in 2007 to 9/100 person-years in 2009 (p = 0.026).
Conclusions
In Estonia, a transitional country, a decrease in the HIV prevalence among new injectors and in the numbers of people initiating injection drug use coincided with implementation of large-scale SEPs. Further reductions in HIV transmission among IDUs are still required. Provision of 70 or more syringes per IDU per year may be needed before significant reductions in HIV incidence occur.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-517
PMCID: PMC3146432  PMID: 21718469
5.  Should Pharmacists have a Role in Harm Reduction Services for IDUs? A Qualitative Study in Tallinn, Estonia 
Despite the high number of injecting drug users (IDUs) in Estonia, little is known about involving pharmacies into human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention activities and potential barriers. Similarly, in other Eastern European countries, there is a need for additional sources for clean syringes besides syringe exchange programmes (SEPs), but data on current practices relating to pharmacists’ role in harm reduction strategies is scant. Involving pharmacies is especially important for several reasons: they have extended hours of operation and convenient locations compared to SEPs, may provide access for IDUs who have avoided SEPs, and are a trusted health resource in the community. We conducted a series of focus groups with pharmacists and IDUs in Tallinn, Estonia, to explore their attitudes toward the role of pharmacists in HIV prevention activities for IDUs. Many, but not all, pharmacists reported a readiness to sell syringes to IDUs to help prevent HIV transmission. However, negative attitudes toward IDUs in general and syringe sales to them specifically were identified as important factors restricting such sales. The idea of free distribution of clean syringes or other injecting equipment and disposal of used syringes in pharmacies elicited strong resistance. IDUs stated that pharmacies were convenient for acquiring syringes due to their extended opening hours and local distribution. IDUs were positive toward pharmacies, although they were aware of stigma from pharmacists and other customers. They also emphasized the need for distilled water and other injection paraphernalia. In conclusion, there are no formal or legislative obstacles for providing HIV prevention services for IDUs at pharmacies. Addressing negative attitudes through educational courses and involving pharmacists willing to be public health educators in high drug use areas would improve access for HIV prevention services for IDUs.
doi:10.1007/s11524-009-9400-5
PMCID: PMC2791822  PMID: 19921542
Injecting drug users; Pharmacists; Harm reduction services
6.  Improving survey methods in sero-epidemiological studies of injecting drug users: a case example of two cross sectional surveys in Serbia and Montenegro 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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%)).
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-14
PMCID: PMC2647543  PMID: 19203380
7.  Socio-demographic factors, health risks and harms associated with early initiation of injection among people who inject drugs in Tallinn, Estonia: evidence from cross-sectional surveys 
Aim
To explore socio-demographic factors, health risks and harms associated with early initiation of injecting (before age 16) among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Tallinn, Estonia.
Methods
IDUs were recruited using respondent driven sampling methods for two cross-sectional interviewer-administered surveys (in 2007 and 2009). Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with early initiation versus later initiation.
Results
A total of 672 current IDUs reported the age when they started to inject drugs; the mean was 18 years, and about a quarter of the sample (n=156) reported early initiation into injecting drugs. Factors significantly associated in multivariate analysis with early initiation were being female, having a lower educational level, being unemployed, shorter time between first drug use and injecting, high-risk injecting (sharing syringes and paraphernalia, injecting more than once a day), involvement in syringe exchange attendance and getting syringes from outreach workers, and two-fold higher risk of HIV seropositivity.
Conclusions
Our results document significant adverse health consequences (including higher risk behaviour and HIV seropositivity) associated with early initiation into drug injecting and emphasize the need for comprehensive prevention programs and early intervention efforts targeting youth at risk. Our findings suggest that interventions designed to delay the age of starting drug use, including injecting drug use, can contribute to reducing risk behaviour and HIV prevalence among IDUs.
doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2012.08.003
PMCID: PMC3566328  PMID: 23036651
Adolescents; injecting drug use; risk behaviour; Eastern Europe; Respondent Driven Sampling; HIV
8.  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
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001625.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001625
PMCID: PMC3979649  PMID: 24714449
9.  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.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000423.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000423
PMCID: PMC3046988  PMID: 21390264
10.  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
11.  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.
doi:10.1007/s11524-012-9728-0
PMCID: PMC3665980  PMID: 22766605
Hepatitis C virus; Injection drug use; Risk behaviors; Prevalence; Human immunodeficiency virus; Border region
12.  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.
doi:10.1007/s11524-008-9271-1
PMCID: PMC2329750  PMID: 18340537
HIV; HBV; HCV; Drug injectors; IDU; Risk behaviors; Syringe exchange; Needle exchange; Pharmacy syringes.
13.  Risk factors for hepatitis C virus infection among injecting drug users in Sydney. 
Genitourinary Medicine  1994;70(5):321-324.
OBJECTIVE--To study risk factors for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in injecting drug users (IDUs) from central Sydney. SETTING AND SUBJECTS--All IDUs attending a primary health care facility in central Sydney between December 1991 and November 1992 who underwent HCV antibody testing. METHODS--Information was obtained retrospectively from client forms routinely completed at the time of medical consultation. Additional information on injecting history and practice was obtained from the registration forms of subjects who also attended the needle syringe exchange programme at the same health care facility. RESULTS--Of the 201 IDUs tested, 118 (59%) had HCV antibodies, which did not differ significantly between males and females. HCV prevalence increased significantly with age, being highest in IDUs who were aged 35 years or more (93%) and lowest in IDUs aged under 20 years (17%). HCV prevalence increased significantly with time since first injecting, from 26% for IDUs who had injected for less than 3 years to 94% for those who had injected for more than 10 years. HCV prevalence was also significantly higher in heterosexual IDUs as compared with homosexual male IDUs, and in opiate users as compared with stimulant users, even after adjustment for age and duration of injecting. HCV prevalence was strongly associated with exposure to hepatitis B virus, but was not associated with exposure to HIV. CONCLUSION--Recent HCV transmission indicates ongoing injecting risk behaviour despite HIV prevention efforts, and underlies the potential for increased transmission of HIV through the sharing of injecting equipment. Within the population of IDUs, those who are heterosexual or inject heroin appear to be at increased risk of HCV infection.
PMCID: PMC1195275  PMID: 8001943
14.  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.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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).
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106899
PMCID: PMC4159231  PMID: 25203256
15.  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 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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).
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-8-22
PMCID: PMC3180253  PMID: 21867518
injection drug user; Afghanistan; HIV; hepatitis C; harm reduction
16.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2008.08.017
PMCID: PMC2654245  PMID: 19004579
High dead-space syringes; Hepatitis C virus; HIV; Injecting drug users; Risk factors
17.  High-prevalence and high-estimated incidence of HIV infection among new injecting drug users in Estonia: need for large scale prevention programs 
Objective
To examine HIV risk behavior and HIV infection among new injectors in Tallinn, Estonia.
Design and methods
Data from two cross-sectional surveys of injecting drug users (IDUs) recruited from a syringe exchange program (N = 162, Study 1) or using respondent driven sampling (N = 350, Study 2). Behavioral surveys were administered; serum samples were collected for HIV testing. Subjects were categorized into new injectors (injecting ≤ 3 years) and long-term injectors (injecting > 3 years).
Results
Twenty-eight of 161 (17%, Study 1) and 73/350 (21%, Study 2) of the study subjects were new injectors. HIV infection was substantial among the newer injectors: HIV prevalence was 50% (Study 1) and 34% (Study 2), and estimated HIV incidence 31/100 PY and 21/100 PY, respectively. In Study 2, new injectors were more likely to be female and ethnic Estonian and less likely to be injecting daily compared with long-term injectors. No significant difference was found among two groups on sharing injecting equipment or reported number of sexual partners.
Conclusions
A continuing HIV epidemic among new injectors is of critical public health concern. Interventions to prevent initiation into injecting drug use and scaling up HIV prevention programs for IDUs in Estonia are of utmost importance.
doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdn014
PMCID: PMC2925676  PMID: 18308743
Estonia; HIV; IDU; injection drug use; new injecting drug users
18.  Problematic use of prescription-type opioids prior to heroin use among young heroin injectors 
Background
Misuse of prescription-type opioids and related adverse health effects are increasing, but little is known about the role of these drugs as a precursor to heroin use. We conducted an exploratory study to determine the proportion of young heroin injectors reporting problematic use of prescription-type opioids prior to using heroin, and to describe the factors associated with prior problematic prescription-type opioid use.
Methods
Between March 2009 and June 2010, we recruited injection drug users (IDUs) for a cross-sectional study of hepatitis C virus infection risk. Participants were aged 18–40 years and had injected illicit drugs within the previous six months. A computerized self-administered survey assessed sociodemographics, drug use history, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/hepatitis C virus risk behaviors and perceptions, and medical history. We added questions on prescription-type opioid use to the parent study in March 2010; heroin injectors who subsequently enrolled and reported problematic prescription-type opioid use prior to heroin initiation were compared with other heroin IDUs using univariate and multivariate regression methods.
Results
Among 123 heroin IDUs, 49 (39.8%) reported problematic prescription-type opioid use prior to heroin initiation (“prescription-type opioid first injection drug users” [PTO-First IDUs]). PTO-First IDUs had higher odds of injecting with friends (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 6.01; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.90–19.07), getting new syringes from a spouse/family member/sex partner (AOR 23.0; 95% CI 2.33–226.0), knowing about the local syringe exchange program (AOR 7.28; 95% CI 1.17–45.05), using powder cocaine (AOR 3.75; 95% CI 1.43–9.86), and perceiving themselves as less likely than other IDUs to get HIV (AOR 4.32; 95% CI 1.26–14.77). They had lower odds of ever being tested for HIV (AOR 0.25; 95% CI 0.08–0.80).
Conclusion
A high proportion of young heroin IDUs reported problematic prescription-type opioid use prior to initiating heroin use. Our study provides several avenues for future investigation to help further characterize this subset of IDUs and their risks and perceptions related to HIV and other blood-borne pathogens.
doi:10.2147/SAR.S24800
PMCID: PMC3536052  PMID: 23293547
injection drug users; prescription-type opioids
19.  Problematic use of prescription-type opioids prior to heroin use among young heroin injectors 
Background
Misuse of prescription-type opioids and related adverse health effects are increasing, but little is known about the role of these drugs as a precursor to heroin use. We conducted an exploratory study to determine the proportion of young heroin injectors reporting problematic use of prescription-type opioids prior to using heroin, and to describe the factors associated with prior problematic prescription-type opioid use.
Methods
Between March 2009 and June 2010, we recruited injection drug users (IDUs) for a cross-sectional study of hepatitis C virus infection risk. Participants were aged 18–40 years and had injected illicit drugs within the previous six months. A computerized self-administered survey assessed sociodemographics, drug use history, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/hepatitis C virus risk behaviors and perceptions, and medical history. We added questions on prescription-type opioid use to the parent study in March 2010; heroin injectors who subsequently enrolled and reported problematic prescription-type opioid use prior to heroin initiation were compared with other heroin IDUs using univariate and multivariate regression methods.
Results
Among 123 heroin IDUs, 49 (39.8%) reported problematic prescription-type opioid use prior to heroin initiation (“prescription-type opioid first injection drug users” [PTO-First IDUs]). PTO-First IDUs had higher odds of injecting with friends (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 6.01; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.90–19.07), getting new syringes from a spouse/family member/sex partner (AOR 23.0; 95% CI 2.33–226.0), knowing about the local syringe exchange program (AOR 7.28; 95% CI 1.17–45.05), using powder cocaine (AOR 3.75; 95% CI 1.43–9.86), and perceiving themselves as less likely than other IDUs to get HIV (AOR 4.32; 95% CI 1.26–14.77). They had lower odds of ever being tested for HIV (AOR 0.25; 95% CI 0.08–0.80).
Conclusion
A high proportion of young heroin IDUs reported problematic prescription-type opioid use prior to initiating heroin use. Our study provides several avenues for future investigation to help further characterize this subset of IDUs and their risks and perceptions related to HIV and other blood-borne pathogens.
doi:10.2147/SAR.S24800
PMCID: PMC3536052  PMID: 23293547
injection drug users; prescription-type opioids
20.  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.
doi:10.1007/s11524-012-9669-7
PMCID: PMC3535136  PMID: 22427232
Injection drug users; IDUs; Syringes; Non-prescription syringes; Pharmacy; Syringe; Exchange program; Needle exchange program; Harm reduction
21.  Predictors of syphilis seroreactivity and prevalence of HIV among street recruited injection drug users in Los Angeles County, 1994–6 
Sexually Transmitted Infections  2000;76(6):462-469.
Objectives: To describe HIV prevalence and the association between syphilis incidence and sexual and drug injection risk behaviours in a cohort of street recruited injecting drug users (IDUs) in Los Angeles County, between 1994 and 1996.
Methods: During the study period, 513 street recruited African-American and Latino IDUs were screened for syphilis and antibodies to HIV. Subjects were administered a risk behaviour survey at baseline and followed up at 6 month intervals for 18 months with repeated interviews and serological screening. Rate ratios were used to examine associations between syphilis incidence and demographic characteristics and risk behaviours. A proportional hazard model was used to identify predictors of syphilis incidence independent of demographic characteristics.
Results: 74% of the sample were male, 70% African-American, 30% Latino; and the median age was 43 years. Overall baseline serological prevalence of HIV was 2.5% and of syphilis 5.7%. None of the participants were co-infected for HIV and syphilis at baseline or at any of the 6 month follow ups. Among 390 eligible IDUs retained for analysis of incidence data, the overall syphilis incidence was 26.0 per 1000 person years. Higher syphilis incidence was found for women compared with men (RR=2.70; 95% CI 1.60, 4.55), and for those 44 years of age or younger compared with those 45 years of age and older (RR=2.26; 95% CI 1.25, 4.08). African-Americans were more likely to be syphilis incident cases when compared with Latinos, although the difference did not reach statistical significance (RR=1.27; 95% CI 0.72, 2.23). In bivariate analysis, risk behaviours significantly associated with higher syphilis incidence included injection of cocaine, "speedball" and heroin, "crack" smoking, recency of first injection event, backloading of syringes, injecting with others, exchanging drugs or money for sex, multiple sex partners, and non-heterosexual sexual preference. Variables that significantly predicted syphilis infection at follow up in the multivariate analysis included multiple sex partners (RR=7.8; 95% CI 2.4, 25.0), exchanging money for sex (RR=3.0; 95% CI 0.9, 9.6), and recent initiation to injection drug use (RR=4.6; 95% CI 1.1, 18.8).
Conclusion: Syphilis transmission among IDUs in Los Angeles County remains a serious public health concern, particularly among IDUs who engage in trading of sex for money or drugs. Although low, the prevalence of HIV observed in this study constitutes a serious concern because of the potential for expanded HIV transmission in this susceptible population of IDUs with high syphilis incidence. Enhanced case finding screening efforts and prevention of transmission of sexually transmitted infections should specifically target hard to reach IDUs and their sexual partners.
Key Words: syphilis incidence; injection drug users; HIV prevalence
doi:10.1136/sti.76.6.462
PMCID: PMC1744247  PMID: 11221130
22.  Hepatitis C Virus Infection among Injection Drug Users with and without Human Immunodeficiency Virus Co-Infection 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94791.
The aim of this study is to explore the prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among injection drug users (IDUs) with and without human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in southern Taiwan. For 562 IDUs (265 anti-HIV negative, 297 anti-HIV positive), we analyzed liver function, anti-HIV antibody, anti-HCV antibody, HCV viral loads, and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). HIV RNA viral loads and CD4 cell count for anti-HIV-seropositive IDUs and the HCV genotype for HCV RNA-seropositive IDUs were measured. The seroprevalence rates of anti-HIV, anti-HCV, and HBsAg were 52.8%, 91.3%, and 15.3%, respectively. All the anti-HIV-seropositive IDUs were positive for HIV RNA. Anti-HCV seropositivity was the most important factor associated with HIV infection (odds ratio [OR], 25.06; 95% confidence intervals [CI], 8.97–74.9), followed by male gender (OR, 6.12; 95% CI, 4.05–9.39) and HBsAg seropositivity (OR, 1.90; 95% CI, 1.11–3.34). Among IDUs positive for anti-HCV, 80.7% had detectable HCV RNA. HCV viremia after HCV exposure was strongly related to HIV infection (OR, 6.262; 95% CI, 1.515–18.28), but negatively correlated to HBsAg seropositivity (OR, 0.161; 95% CI, 0.082–0.317). HCV genotype 6 was the most prevalent genotype among all IDUs (41.0%), followed by genotypes 1 (32.3%), 3 (12.8%), and 2 (5.6%). In conclusion, about half IDUs were infected with HIV and >90% with HCV infection. Male and seropositivity for HBsAg and anti-HCV were factors related to HIV infection among our IDUs. HIV was positively correlated, whereas hepatitis B co-infection was negatively correlated with HCV viremia among IDUs with HCV exposure. Different HCV molecular epidemiology was noted among IDUs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094791
PMCID: PMC3983255  PMID: 24722534
23.  Racial Differences in Acquisition of Syringes from Pharmacies under Conditions of Legal but Restricted Sales 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
In our study sample, African-American IDUs were one-fifth as likely as white IDUs to report pharmacies as their primary source of syringes.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2009.12.006
PMCID: PMC2926201  PMID: 20097052
Injecting drug users; African-Americans; purchasing syringes; carrying syringes
24.  Injection Behaviors among Injection Drug Users in Treatment: the Role of Hepatitis C Awareness 
Addictive Behaviors  2011;37(4):552-555.
Background
Injection drug use (IDU) is a primary vector for blood-borne infections. Awareness of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection status may affect risky injection behaviors. This study determines the prevalence of risky injection practices and examines associations between awareness of positive HCV status and risky injection behaviors.
Methods
We surveyed individuals seeking treatment for substance use at 12 community treatment programs as part of a national HIV screening trial conducted within the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network. Participants reported socio-demographic characteristics, substance use, risk behaviors, and HCV status. We used multivariable logistic regression to test associations between participant characteristics and syringe/needle sharing.
Results
The 1281 participants included 244 (19.0%) individuals who reported injecting drugs in the past 6 months and 37.7% of IDUs reported being HCV positive. During the six months preceding baseline assessment, the majority of IDUs reported obtaining sterile syringes from pharmacies (51.6%) or syringe exchange programs (25.0%), but fewer than half of IDUs always used a sterile syringe (46.9%). More than one-third (38.5%) shared syringe/needles with another injector in the past 6 months. Awareness of positive HCV vs. negative/unknown status was associated with increased recent syringe/needle sharing (aOR 2.37, 95% CI 1.15, 4.88) in multivariable analysis.
Conclusions
Risky injection behaviors remain prevalent and awareness of HCV infection was associated with increased risky injection behaviors. New approaches are needed to broadly implement HCV prevention interventions for IDUs seeking addiction treatment.
doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.12.001
PMCID: PMC3288438  PMID: 22209655
Injection Drug Use; Hepatitis C; syringe/needle sharing; alcoholism opioid-related disorders
25.  High risk behaviors of injection drug users registered with harm reduction programme in Karachi, Pakistan 
Background
Surveillance data of Sindh AIDS Control Programme, Pakistan suggest that HIV infection is rapidly increasing among IDUs in Karachi and has reached 9% in 2004–5 indicating that the country has progressed from nascent to concentrated level of HIV epidemic. Findings of 2nd generation surveillance in 2004–5 also indicate 104/395 (26.3%) IDUs HIV positive in the city.
Methods
We conducted a cross sectional study among registered IDUs of a needle exchange and harm reduction programme in Karachi, Pakistan. A total of 161 IDUs were included in the study between October–November 2003. A detailed questionnaire was implemented and blood samples were collected for HIV, hepatitis B & C and syphilis. HIV, hepatitis B and C antibody tests were performed using Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) method. Syphilis tests (RPR & TPHA) were performed on Randox kit.
Besides calculating frequencies univariate analysis was performed using t tests for continuous variables as age, age at first intercourse and average age of initiation of addiction and chi square for categorical variables like paid for sex or not to identify risk factors for hepatitis B and C and syphilis.
Results
Average age of IDU was 35.9 years and average age of initiation of drugs was 15.9 years. Number of drug injections per day was 2.3. Shooting drugs in group sharing syringes was reported by 128 (79.5%) IDUs. Over half 94 (58.3%) reported paying for sex and 64% reported never using a condom. Commercial selling of blood was reported by 44 (28%). 1 of 161 was HIV positive (0.6%). The prevalence of hepatitis B was 12 (7.5%), hepatitis C 151 (94.3%) and syphilis 21 (13.1%). IDUs who were hepatitis C positive were more likely to start sexual activity at an earlier age and had never used condoms. Similarly IDUs who were hepatitis B positive were more likely to belong to a younger age group. Syphilis positive IDUs were more likely to have paid for sex and had never used a condom.
Conclusion
Prudent measures such as access to sterile syringes, rehabilitation and opiate substitution therapies are required to reduce high risk behaviors of IDUs in Pakistan.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-4-7
PMCID: PMC1800841  PMID: 17291354

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