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1.  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
2.  Controlling HIV Epidemics among Injection Drug Users: Eight Years of Cross-Border HIV Prevention Interventions in Vietnam and China 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43141.
Introduction
HIV in Vietnam and Southern China is driven by injection drug use. We have implemented HIV prevention interventions for IDUs since 2002–2003 in Lang Son and Ha Giang Provinces, Vietnam and Ning Ming County (Guangxi), China.
Methods
Interventions provide peer education and needle/syringe distribution. Evaluation employed serial cross-sectional surveys of IDUs 26 waves from 2002 to 2011, including interviews and HIV testing. Outcomes were HIV risk behaviors, HIV prevalence and incidence. HIV incidence estimation used two methods: 1) among new injectors from prevalence data; and 2) a capture enzyme immunoassay (BED testing) on all HIV+ samples.
Results
We found significant declines in drug-related risk behaviors and sharp reductions in HIV prevalence among IDUs (Lang Son from 46% to 23% [p<0.001], Ning Ming: from 17% to 11% [p = 0.003], and Ha Giang: from 51% to 18% [p<0.001]), reductions not experienced in other provinces without such interventions. There were significant declines in HIV incidence to low levels among new injectors through 36–48 months, then some rebound, particularly in Ning Ming, but BED-based estimates revealed significant reductions in incidence through 96 months.
Discussion
This is one of the longest studies of HIV prevention among IDUs in Asia. The rebound in incidence among new injectors may reflect sexual transmission. BED-based estimates may overstate incidence (because of false-recent results in patients with long-term infection or on ARV treatment) but adjustment for false-recent results and survey responses on duration of infection generally confirm BED-based incidence trends. Combined trends from the two estimation methods show sharp declines in incidence to low levels. The significant downward trends in all primary outcome measures indicate that the Cross-Border interventions played an important role in bringing HIV epidemics among IDUs under control. The Cross-Border project offers a model of HIV prevention for IDUs that should be considered for large-scale replication.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043141
PMCID: PMC3428343  PMID: 22952640
3.  HIV prevalence and risk behaviours among injecting drug users in six indonesian cities implications for future HIV prevention programs 
Background
The HIV prevalence among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Indonesia reached 50% in 2005. While drug use remains illegal in Indonesia, a needle and syringe program (NSP) was implemented in 2006.
Methods
In 2007, an integrated behavioural and biological surveillance survey was conducted among IDUs in six cities. IDUs were selected via time-location sampling and respondent-driven sampling. A questionnaire was administered face-to-face. IDUs from four cities were tested for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Factors associated with HIV were assessed using generalized estimating equations. Risk for sexual transmission of HIV was assessed among HIV-positive IDUs.
Results
Among 1,404 IDUs, 70% were daily injectors and 31% reported sharing needles in the past week. Most (76%) IDUs received injecting equipment from NSP in the prior week; 26% always carried a needle and those who didn’t, feared police arrest. STI prevalence was low (8%). HIV prevalence was 52%; 27% among IDUs injecting less than 1 year, 35% among those injecting for 1–3 years compared to 61% in long term injectors (p < 0.001). IDUs injecting for less than 3 years were more likely to have used clean needles in the past week compared to long term injectors (p < 0.001). HIV-positive status was associated with duration of injecting, ever been imprisoned and injecting in public parks. Among HIV-infected IDUs, consistent condom use last week with steady, casual and commercial sex partners was reported by 13%, 24% and 32%, respectively.
Conclusions
Although NSP uptake has possibly reduced HIV transmission among injectors with shorter injection history, the prevalence of HIV among IDUs in Indonesia remains unacceptably high. Condom use is insufficient, which advocates for strengthening prevention of sexual transmission alongside harm reduction programs.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-9-37
PMCID: PMC3494521  PMID: 22943438
Injecting drug users; HIV; Indonesia; Harm reduction
4.  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
5.  Drug choice, spatial distribution, HIV risk, and HIV prevalence among injection drug users in St. Petersburg, Russia 
Background
The HIV epidemic in Russia has been driven by the unsafe injection of drugs, predominantly heroin and the ephedrine derived psychostimulants. Understanding differences in HIV risk behaviors among injectors associated with different substances has important implications for prevention programs.
Methods
We examined behaviors associated with HIV risk among 900 IDUs who inject heroin, psychostimulants, or multiple substances in 2002. Study participants completed screening questionnaires that provided data on sociodemographics, drug use, place of residence and injection- and sex-related HIV risk behaviors. HIV testing was performed and prevalence was modeled using general estimating equation (GEE) analysis. Individuals were clustered by neighborhood and disaggregated into three drug use categories: Heroin Only Users, Stimulant Only Users, and Mixed Drug Users.
Results
Among Heroin Only Users, younger age, front/backloading of syringes, sharing cotton and cookers were all significant predictors of HIV infection. In contrast, sharing needles and rinse water were significant among the Stimulant Only Users. The Mixed Drug Use group was similar to the Heroin Only Users with age, front/back loading, and sharing cotton significantly associated with HIV infection. These differences became apparent only when neighborhood of residence was included in models run using GEE.
Conclusion
The type of drug injected was associated with distinct behavioral risks. Risks specific to Stimulant Only Users appeared related to direct syringe sharing. The risks specific to the other two groups are common to the process of sharing drugs in preparation to injecting. Across the board, IDUs could profit from prevention education that emphasizes both access to clean syringes and preparing and apportioning drug with these clean syringes. However, attention to neighborhood differences might improve the intervention impact for injectors who favor different drugs.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-6-22
PMCID: PMC2731096  PMID: 19646255
6.  Positive deviance control-case life history: a method to develop grounded hypotheses about successful long-term avoidance of infection 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:94.
Background
Prevalence rates for long-term injection drug users in some localities surpass 60% for HIV and 80% for HCV. We describe methods for developing grounded hypotheses about how some injectors avoid infection with either virus.
Methods
Subjects: 25 drug injectors who have injected drugs 8 – 15 years in New York City. 17 remain without antibody to either HIV or HCV; 3 are double-positives; and 5 are positive for HCV but not HIV. "Staying Safe" methodology compares serostatus groups using detailed biographical timelines and narratives; and information about how subjects maintain access to physical resources and social support; their strategies and tactics to remain safe; how they handle problems of addiction and demands by drug dealers and other drug users; and how their behaviors and strategies do or do not become socially-embedded practices. Grounded theory and life-history analysis techniques compare and contrast doubly-uninfected with those infected with both viruses or only with HCV.
Results
Themes and initial hypotheses emerging from analyses included two master hypotheses that, if confirmed, should help shape preventive interventions: 1) Staying uninfected is not simply a question of social structure or social position. It involves agency by drug injectors, including sustained hard work and adaptation to changing circumstances. 2) Multiple intentionalities contribute to remaining uninfected. These conscious goals include balancing one's need for drugs and one's income; developing ways to avoid drug withdrawal sickness; avoiding situations where other drug users importune you to share drugs; and avoiding HIV (and perhaps HCV) infection. Thus, focusing on a single goal in prevention might be sub-optimal.
Other hypotheses specify mechanisms of enacting these intentionalities. One example is finding ways to avoid extreme social ostracism.
Conclusion
We have identified strategies and tactics that some doubly-uninfected IDUs have developed to stay safe. Staying Safe methodology develops grounded hypotheses. These can be tested through cohort studies of incidence and prevention trials of hypothesis-based programs to help drug injectors make their injection and sexual careers safer for themselves and others. This positive deviance control-case life history method might be used to study avoiding other infections like genital herpes among sex workers.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-94
PMCID: PMC2329618  PMID: 18366699
7.  Estimating the Prevalence of Injection Drug Use among Black and White Adults in Large U.S. Metropolitan Areas over Time (1992–2002): Estimation Methods and Prevalence Trends 
No adequate data exist on patterns of injection drug use (IDU) prevalence over time within racial/ethnic groups in U.S. geographic areas. The absence of such prevalence data limits our understanding of the causes and consequences of IDU and hampers planning efforts for IDU-related interventions. Here, we (1) describe a method of estimating IDU prevalence among non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White adult residents of 95 large U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) annually over an 11-year period (1992–2002); (2) validate the resulting prevalence estimates; and (3) document temporal trends in these prevalence estimates. IDU prevalence estimates for Black adults were calculated in several steps: we (1) created estimates of the proportion of injectors who were Black in each MSA and year by analyzing databases documenting injectors’ encounters with the healthcare system; (2) multiplied the resulting proportions by previously calculated estimates of the total number of injectors in each MSA and year (Brady et al., 2008); (3) divided the result by the number of Black adults living in each MSA each year; and (4) validated the resulting estimates by correlating them cross-sectionally with theoretically related constructs (Black- and White-specific prevalences of drug-related mortality and of mortality from hepatitis C). We used parallel methods to estimate and validate White IDU prevalence. We analyzed trends in the resulting racial/ethnic-specific IDU prevalence estimates using measures of central tendency and hierarchical linear models (HLM). Black IDU prevalence declined from a median of 279 injectors per 10,000 adults in 1992 to 156 injectors per 10,000 adults in 2002. IDU prevalence for White adults remained relatively flat over time (median values ranged between 86 and 97 injectors per 10,000 adults). HLM analyses described similar trends and suggest that declines in Black IDU prevalence decelerated over time. Both sets of IDU estimates correlated cross-sectionally adequately with validators, suggesting that they have acceptable convergent validity (range for Black IDU prevalence validation: 0.27 < r < 0.61; range for White IDU prevalence: 0.38 < r < 0.80). These data give insight, for the first time, into IDU prevalence trends among Black adults and White adults in large U.S. MSAs. The decline seen here for Black adults may partially explain recent reductions in newly reported cases of IDU-related HIV evident in surveillance data on this population. Declining Black IDU prevalence may have been produced by (1) high AIDS-related mortality rates among Black injectors in the 1990s, rates lowered by the advent of HAART; (2) reduced IDU incidence among Black drug users; and/or (3) MSA-level social processes (e.g., diminishing residential segregation). The stability of IDU prevalence among White adults between 1992 and 2002 may be a function of lower AIDS-related mortality rates in this population; relative stability (and perhaps increases in some MSAs) in initiating IDU among White drug users; and social processes. Future research should investigate the extent to which these racial/ethnic-specific IDU prevalence trends (1) explain, and are explained by, recent trends in IDU-related health outcomes, and (2) are determined by MSA-level social processes.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11524-008-9304-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s11524-008-9304-9
PMCID: PMC2587642  PMID: 18709555
Injection drug use; Race/ethnicity; Metropolitan statistical areas; Epidemiology
8.  Large sharing networks and unusual injection practices explain the rapid rise in HIV among IDUs in Sargodha, Pakistan 
Background
Of the nearly 100,000 street-based IDUs in Pakistan, 20% have HIV. We investigated the recent rise in HIV prevalence from 12 to 52% among IDUs in Sargodha despite > 70% coverage with syringe exchanges.
Methods
We interviewed approximately 150 IDUs and 30 outreach workers in focus group discussions.
Results
We found six rural and 28 urban injecting locations. Urban locations have about 20–30 people at any time and about 100 daily; rural locations have twice as many (national average: 4–15). About half of the IDUs started injecting within the past 2 years and are not proficient at injecting themselves. They use street injectors, who have 15–16 clients daily. Heroin is almost exclusively the drug used. Most inject 5–7 times daily.
Nearly all injectors claim to use fresh syringes. However, they load, inject and share using a locally developed method called scale. Most Pakistani IDUs prefer to double pump drug the syringe, which allows mixing of blood with drug in the syringe. The injector injects 3 ml and keeps 2 ml (the scale) as injection fee. The injector usually pools all the leftover scale (now with some blood mixed with drug) either for his own use or to sell it. Most IDUs backload the scale they buy into their own fresh syringes.
Discussion
Use of an unprecedented method of injecting drugs that largely bypasses fresh syringes, larger size of sharing networks, higher injection frequency and near universal use of street injectors likely explain for the rapid rise in HIV prevalence among IDUs in Sargodha despite high level provision of fresh syringes. This had been missed by us and the national surveillance, which is quantitative. We have addressed this by hiring injectors as peer outreach workers and increasing syringe supply. Our findings highlight both the importance of qualitative research and operations research to enrich the quality of HIV prevention programs.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-6-13
PMCID: PMC2713223  PMID: 19558668
9.  Mortality among injecting drug users: a critical reappraisal. 
STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to quantify all cause mortality among injecting drug users. DESIGN--This was a retrospective analysis of 1989 data on injecting drug users and mortality obtained from three independent agencies: the Procurator Fiscal's Office, the General Register Office, and the Scottish HIV-test register. SETTING--Greater Glasgow, Scotland. SUBJECTS--Drug injectors, estimated population 9424. MAIN RESULTS--81 names were found using the three sources to identify deaths. After removing duplicates, 51 deaths were found. This represented a mortality rate of 0.54% in the estimated population. Among female injectors the mortality rate was 0.85%, significantly higher than the rate of 0.42% among male injectors (95% CI for the true difference in mortality rates between female and male injectors was 0.31%-0.55%). Over 90% of deaths were attributed to overdose or suicide. Although AIDS caused only one death, 19% of cases (5/27) whose HIV antibody status could be ascertained were positive. The mortality rate among HIV positive injectors (3.8%) was significantly higher than among HIV negative injectors (0.49%). CONCLUSIONS--Comprehensive coverage using three data sources revealed a far greater annual number of all cause deaths among injectors than would have been expected from previous research. The observed mortality rate was lower than in previous studies where the denominators used to calculate rates had an element of underenumeration. For the foreseeable future it is unlikely that AIDS will have much impact on mortality among injectors in Glasgow, because of the low prevalence of HIV infection among injectors in the city, and because HIV positive injectors are dying for reasons other than AIDS; rather, overdose and suicide will continue to be the main causes of death.
PMCID: PMC1059713  PMID: 8436897
10.  Multiple routes of drug administration and HIV risk among injecting drug users 
This study assesses relationships between drug administration routes and HIV serostatus, drug-use and sexual behaviors among current injecting drug users (IDUs) in Tallinn, Estonia. We recruited 350 IDUs for a cross-sectional risk behavior survey. Adjusted odds ratios (AORs) were calculated to explore injection risk behavior, sexual behavior and HIV serostatus associated with multiple route use. Focus groups explored reasons why injectors might use non-injecting routes of administration. Those reporting multiple drug administration routes were less likely to be HIV seropositive (AOR 0.49; 95%CI 0.25-0.97), had almost twice the odds of having more than one sexual partner (AOR 1.90; 95%CI 1.01-3.60) and of reporting having sexually transmitted diseases (AOR 2.38; 95%CI 1.02-5.59).
IDUs who engage in non-injecting drug use may be reducing their risk of acquiring HIV though sharing injection equipment, but if infected may be a critical group for sexual transmission of HIV to people who do not inject drugs.
doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2011.09.014
PMCID: PMC3289756  PMID: 22116012
Injecting drug use; HIV; Risk behavior; Illicit drug use; Sexual risk behaviors
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  Understanding the association between injecting and sexual risk behaviors of injecting drug users in Manipur and Nagaland, India 
Background
In India, as in rest of the world, HIV prevention programs have focused on HIV transmission through unsafe injecting practices with less attention on sexual risk behaviors among injecting drug users (IDUs). This study examines the sexual risk taking behaviors of IDUs associated with their pattern of drug use in India.
Methods
Data were obtained from the behavioral tracking survey conducted in 2009 among 1712 IDUs in two districts each of Manipur and Nagaland states in Northeastern part of India. Sexual risk behaviors among IDUs were assessed in terms of multiple sex partners, sex with a paid female partner in the last 12 months and inconsistent condom use with any female partner.
Results
More than one-fourth (27%) in Manipur and almost one in two (47%) IDUs reported having had sex with two or more female partners in the past 12 months. In Manipur where heroin is commonly used, the odds of having multiple sex partners were higher among non-heroin users than heroin users (42% vs. 23%, Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR): 1.7, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.1-2.6) and who shared needles/syringes in the last one month than who did not share (46% vs. 26%, AOR: 2.2, CI: 1.2-4.0). In Nagaland, where Spasmoproxyvon (SP, a synthetic opioid analgesic that contains dextropropoxyphene, dicyclomine hydrochloride and paracetamol) is most common, regular injectors as compared to occasional injectors were more likely to report multiple sex partners (67% vs. 42%, AOR: 2.7, CI: 1.8-4.1) and sex with paid partners (13% vs. 3%, AOR: 6.0, CI: 3.0-12.1). Sharing of needles/syringes was positively associated with multiple sex partners (51% vs. 44%, AOR: 1.6, CI: 1.2-2.2), and inconsistent condom use (93% vs. 80%, AOR: 3.0, CI: 1.8-5.1).
Conclusions
IDUs with unsafe injecting practices also engage in risky sexual practices magnifying the risk of HIV infection. There is a need to focus on prevention of sexual transmission among high-risk IDUs, particularly in areas where Spasmoproxyvon is commonly used.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-9-40
PMCID: PMC3542100  PMID: 23249619
Injecting drug users; Sexual behavior; Condom use; Northeastern India
15.  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
16.  Geographical and temporal variation of injection drug users in Pakistan 
Sexually Transmitted Infections  2013;89(Suppl 2):ii18-ii28.
Objectives
We describe the characteristics of injecting drug users (IDU) in Pakistan in 2006 and 2011, and assess the heterogeneity of IDU characteristics across different cities and years as well as factors associated with HIV infection.
Methods
Cross-sectional, integrated behavioural-biological surveys of IDU were conducted in 10 cities across Pakistan in 2006 and 2011. Univariate and multivariable analyses were used to describe the differences in HIV prevalence and risk behaviours between cities and over time.
Results
Large increases in HIV prevalence among injection drug users in Pakistan were observed, with overall HIV prevalence increasing from 16.2% in 2006 to 31.0% in 2011; an increase in HIV prevalence was also seen in all geographic areas except one. There was an increase in risk behaviours between 2006 and 2011, anecdotally related to a reduction in the availability of services for IDU. In 2011, larger proportions of IDU reported injecting several times a day and using professional injectors, and fewer reported always using clean syringes. An increase in the proportion living on the street was also observed and this was associated with HIV infection. Cities differ in terms of HIV prevalence, risk profiles, and healthcare seeking behaviours.
Conclusions
There is a high prevalence of HIV among injection drug users in Pakistan and considerable potential for further transmission through risk behaviours. HIV prevention programs may be improved through geographic targeting of services within a city and for involving groups that interact with IDU (such as pharmacy staff and professional injectors) in harm reduction initiatives.
doi:10.1136/sextrans-2012-050775
PMCID: PMC3756445  PMID: 23314301
HIV; Injecting Drug Use; Epidemiology (General)
17.  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
18.  Fifteen years of research on preventing HIV infection among injecting drug users: what we have learned, what we have not learned, what we have done, what we have not done. 
Public Health Reports  1998;113(Suppl 1):182-188.
OBJECTIVE: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) was formally identified among injecting drug users (IDUs) in 1981, and research on preventing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among drug injectors began shortly thereafter. At the time this research was begun, there was a general assumption that drug user (who were called drug abusers at that time) were too self-destructive and their behavior too chaotic for them to change their behavior to avoid infection with HIV. This chapter reviews the history of research on implementation of programs for prevention of HIV infection among IDUs. METHODS: Reviews of both research and program implementation research were conducted. Consultative discussions of issues and findings were conducted with researcher in the United States and other countries. RESULTS: An extremely large amount of useful information has accumulated during the pat 15 years. We now know that the great majority of IDUs will change their injecting behavior in response to the threat of AIDS and that these behavior changes are effective in reducing HIV transmission among drug injectors. Additional insight is needed regarding the apparent insufficiency of some prevention programs to control HIV, the transmission dynamics of rapid HIV spread, and the persistence of moderate to high incidence of HIV infection in high seroprevalence populations. Despite the current research knowledge base, implementation of effective prevention programs in may countries is nonexistent to incomplete. CONCLUSIONS: The most important barrier to reducing HIV transmission among drug injectors is not a lack of knowledge but the failure to implement effective prevention programs in may parts of the world.
PMCID: PMC1307740  PMID: 9722823
19.  High coverage needle/syringe programs for people who inject drugs in low and middle income countries: a systematic review 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:53.
Background
Persons who inject drugs (PWID) are at an elevated risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. In many high-income countries, needle and syringe exchange programs (NSP) have been associated with reductions in blood-borne infections. However, we do not have a good understanding of the effectiveness of NSP in low/middle-income and transitional-economy countries.
Methods
A systematic literature review based on PRISMA guidelines was utilized to collect primary study data on coverage of NSP programs and changes in HIV and HCV infection over time among PWID in low-and middle-income and transitional countries (LMICs). Included studies reported laboratory measures of either HIV or HCV and at least 50% coverage of the local injecting population (through direct use or through secondary exchange). We also included national reports on newly reported HIV cases for countries that had national level data for PWID in conjunction with NSP scale-up and implementation.
Results
Studies of 11 NSPs with high-coverage from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Estonia, Iran, Lithuania, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam were included in the review. In five studies HIV prevalence decreased (range −3% to −15%) and in three studies HCV prevalence decreased (range −4.2% to −10.2%). In two studies HIV prevalence increased (range +5.6% to +14.8%). HCV incidence remained stable in one study. Of the four national reports of newly reported HIV cases, three reported decreases during NSP expansion, ranging from −30% to −93.3%, while one national report documented an increase in cases (+37.6%). Estimated incidence among new injectors decreased in three studies, with reductions ranging from −11/100 person years at risk to −16/100 person years at risk.
Conclusions
While not fully consistent, the data generally support the effectiveness of NSP in reducing HIV and HCV infection in low/middle-income and transitional-economy countries. If high coverage is achieved, NSP appear to be as effective in LMICs as in high-income countries. Additional monitoring and evaluation research is needed for NSPs where reductions in HIV/HCV infection among PWID are not occurring in order to identify and correct contributing problems.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-53
PMCID: PMC3567947  PMID: 23332005
HIV; Hepatitis C; Needle and syringe programs; Syringe exchange programs; People who inject drugs; Injecting drug use
20.  Systematic review research on needle/syringe programs and opiate substitution programs in low- and middle-income countries 
Journal of food and drug analysis  2013;21(4):S59-S61.
Persons who inject drugs (PWID) are at an elevated risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. In many high-income countries, needle and syringe exchange programs (NSPs) have been associated with reductions in blood-borne infections. However, we do not have a good understanding of the effectiveness of NSP in low/middle-income and transitional-economy countries. A systematic literature review based on PRISMA guidelines was utilized to collect primary study data on coverage of NSP programs and changes in HIV and HCV infection over time among PWID in low- and middle-income and transitional countries (LMICs). Included studies reported laboratory measures of either HIV or HCV and at least 50% coverage of the local injecting population (through direct use or through secondary exchange). We also included national reports on newly reported HIV cases for countries that had national level data for PWID in conjunction with NSP scale-up and implementation. Studies of 11 NSPs with high-coverage from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Estonia, Iran, Lithuania, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam were included in the review. In five studies, HIV prevalence decreased (range −3% to −15%) and in three studies HCV prevalence decreased (range −4.2% to −10.2%). In two studies, HIV prevalence increased (range +5.6% to +14.8%). HCV incidence remained stable in one study. Of the four national reports of newly reported HIV cases, three reported decreases during NSP expansion, ranging from −30% to −93.3%, whereas one national report documented an increase in cases (+37.6%). Estimated incidence among new injectors decreased in three studies, with reductions ranging from −11/100 person years at risk to −16/100 person years at risk. While not fully consistent, the data generally support the effectiveness of NSP in reducing HIV and HCV infection in low/middle-income and transitional-economy countries. If high coverage is achieved, NSP appear to be as effective in LMICs as in high-income countries. Additional monitoring and evaluation research is needed for NSPs where reductions in HIV/HCV infection among PWID are not occurring in order to identify and correct contributing problems.
doi:10.1016/j.jfda.2013.09.035
PMCID: PMC4176926  PMID: 25267887
HIV; Hepatitis C; needle and syringe programs; opiate substitution programs; low and middle income countries
21.  Correlates of syringe coverage for heroin injection in 35 large metropolitan areas in the US in which heroin is the dominant injected drug 
The International journal on drug policy  2008;19(Suppl 1):S47-S58.
Background
Scientific consensus holds that if, at the outset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, injection drug users (IDUs) had had better access to sterile syringes, much of the epidemic among IDUs in the U.S. could have been prevented. In the context of preventing infectious diseases, 100% syringe coverage—that is, one sterile syringe per injector for each injection—is a public health goal. Notably, we know little about variations in syringe coverage within the U.S. and elsewhere, or about the social and political factors that might determine this coverage.
Methods
Using data from Holmberg (AJPH, 1996), the 1990 United States Census, the 2000 Beth Israel National Syringe Exchange Survey (n=72), and estimates of IDUs in metropolitan areas (MSAs); (Friedman et al., 2004), we explore the impact of (1) political factors (ACT UP, outreach, early syringe exchange programme (SEP) presence, men who have sex with men (MSM) per capita, drug arrests, and police per capita); (2) local resources for SEPs; and (3) indicators of socioeconomic inequality on SEP coverage. We define “syringe coverage” as the ratio of syringes distributed at SEPs to the number of syringes heroin injectors need in a year. We calculated the number of syringes heroin injectors need in a year by multiplying an estimate of the number of IDUs in each MSA by an estimate of the average number of times heroin injectors inject heroin per year (2.8 times per day times 365 days). In this analysis, the sample was limited to 35 MSAs in which the primary drug of choice among injectors was heroin.
Results
SEP coverage varies greatly across MSAs, with an average of 3 syringes distributed per 100 injection events (std dev = 0.045; range: 2 syringes per 10 injection events, to 3 syringes per 10,000 injection events). In bivariate regression analyses, a 1 unit difference in the proportion of the population that was MSM per 1,000 was associated with a difference of 0.002 in SEP coverage (p=0.052); early SEP presence was associated with a difference of 0.038 in coverage (p=0.012); and having government funding was associated with a 0.040 difference in SEP coverage (p=0.021).
Conclusions
This analysis suggests that longer duration of SEP presence may increase syringe distribution and enhance successful programme utilization. Furthermore, MSAs with greater proportions of MSM tend to have better SEP coverage, perhaps providing further evidence that grassroots activism plays an important role in programme implementation and successful SEP coverage. This research provides evidence that government funding for SEPs contributes to better syringe coverage.
doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2007.11.011
PMCID: PMC2706511  PMID: 18295468
syringe exchange programmes; coverage; heroin injection events; government funding; grassroots activism
22.  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
23.  HIV among injection drug users in large US metropolitan areas, 1998 
This article estimates HIV prevalence rates among injection drug users (IDUs) in 95 large US metropolitan areas to facilitate social and policy analyses of HIV epidemics. HIV prevalence rates among IDUs in these metropolitan areas were calculated by taking the mean of two estimates: (1) estimates based on regression adjustments to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing data and (2) estimates based on the ratio of the number of injectors living with HIV to the number of injectors living in the metropolitan area. The validity of the resulting estimates was assessed. HIV prevalence rates varied from 2 to 28% (median 5.9%; interquartile range 4.0–10.2%). These HIV prevalence rates correlated with similar estimates calculated for 1992 and with two theoretically related phenomena: laws against over-the-counter purchase of syringes and income inequality. Despite limitations in the accuracy of these estimates, they can be used for structural analyses of the correlates, predictors and consequences of HIV prevalence rates among drug injectors in metropolitan areas and for assessing and targeting the service needs for drug injectors.
doi:10.1093/jurban/jti088
PMCID: PMC3456049  PMID: 16014877
Epidemic modeling; HIV prevalence estimates; Injection drug users; Local epidemics; Structural analysis
24.  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
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001663.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001663
PMCID: PMC4061009  PMID: 24937136
25.  Spatial Access to Sterile Syringes and the Odds of Injecting with an Unsterile Syringe among Injectors: A Longitudinal Multilevel Study 
Despite the 2010 repeal of the ban on spending federal monies to fund syringe exchange programs (SEPs) in the USA, these interventions—and specifically SEP site locations—remain controversial. To further inform discussions about the location of SEP sites, this longitudinal multilevel study investigates the relationship between spatial access to sterile syringes distributed by SEPs in New York City (NYC) United Hospital Fund (UHF) districts and injecting with an unsterile syringe among injectors over time (1995–2006). Annual measures of spatial access to syringes in each UHF district (N = 42) were created using data on SEP site locations and site-specific syringe distribution data. Individual-level data on unsterile injecting among injectors (N = 4,067) living in these districts, and on individual-level covariates, were drawn from the Risk Factors study, an ongoing cross-sectional study of NYC drug users. We used multilevel models to explore the relationship of district-level access to syringes to the odds of injecting with an unsterile syringe in >75% of injection events in the past 6 months, and to test whether this relationship varied by district-level arrest rates (per 1,000 residents) for drug and drug paraphernalia possession. The relationship between district-level access to syringes and the odds of injecting with an unsterile syringe depended on district-level arrest rates. In districts with low baseline arrest rates, better syringe access was associated with a decline in the odds of frequently injecting with an unsterile syringe (AOR, 0.95). In districts with no baseline syringe access, higher arrest rates were associated with increased odds of frequently injecting with an unsterile syringe (AOR, 1.02) When both interventions were present, arrest rates eroded the protective effects of spatial access to syringes. Spatial access to syringes in small geographic areas appears to reduce the odds of injecting with an unsterile syringe among local injectors, and arrest rates elevate these odds. Policies and practices that curtail syringe flow in geographic areas (e.g., restrictions on SEP locations or syringe distribution) or that make it difficult for injectors to use the sterile syringes they have acquired may damage local injectors’ efforts to reduce HIV transmission and other injection-related harms.
doi:10.1007/s11524-012-9673-y
PMCID: PMC3535144  PMID: 22585448
Syringe exchange programs; Harm reduction; Injection drug use; HIV; Drug-related law enforcement; Geospatial analyses

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