highlights increase in HIV infections amongst IDUs in
Friday, October 28, 2005
infections of HIV and hepatitis C virus increased amongst
injecting drug users in the
in 2004, according to a report issued by the Health
Protection Agency. Evidence was also found of continuing
hepatitis B virus infections amongst injecting drug users
and hepatitis A infections.
Data collected by the Health Protection Agency and published
in the report, Shooting
Up: infections among injecting drug users in the United
Kingdom, an update, October 2005 also revealed
up to 50% of
injecting drug users with HIV are not aware that they are
infected with the virus and that a significant minority of
injecting drug users share needles, syringes and other
“The recent, and probably ongoing, increase in the
prevalence of HIV infection among current injecting drug
users is a cause for concern”, write the authors.
For 2004, 118
new HIV infections have been reported where injecting drug
use was the risk activity. Between 1998 and 2003 only 118
new infections in this risk group were reported.
Although injecting drug users account for only 6% of the
70,000 cases of HIV seen in the
the report authors write, “The recent, and probably ongoing,
increase in the prevalence of HIV infection among current
injecting drug users is a cause for concern.”
Community surveillance projects involving over 2,500
injecting drug users found that only 37% had ever had an HIV
test, and that of the individuals with HIV, only 50% were
aware of their infection status.
The report found wide regional variations in the prevalence
of HIV infection amongst injecting drug users in
The highest prevalence was in
London where 4%
were infected with HIV. Elsewhere in
the prevalence of HIV infection was 1%.
Anonymous surveillance projects in 2004 found evidence of
widespread injecting habits which involved a risk of
infection with HIV or another blood-borne infection.
A total of 28%
of participants in the project said that they had shared
needles or syringes in 2004 and 50% reported sharing other
drug taking paraphernalia such as filters or spoons.
In 2004, the
prevalence of hepatitis C infection amongst surveyed
injecting drug users was 42%, similar to the 42% observed in
2003. An enhanced survey involving 952 injecting drug users
found, however, that 54% were infected with hepatitis C
virus, and that prevalence was highest
(67%) amongst individuals with a history of crack-cocaine
Data were unavailable for hepatitis B virus infections in
2004 due to “a substantial deterioration in the quality
of...reporting.” However, the investigators note that the
prevalence of hepatitis B infections amongst injecting drug
users participating in voluntary anonymous surveillance
projects was 21%, similar to the level seen in 1995.
outbreaks of hepatitis A were also found amongst injecting
drug users, which the report authors
attribute to poor hygiene, oral-fecal contact during sex, or
blood-borne transmission of the virus. Concern is expressed
by the authors about continuing new infections with
hepatitis A and B as effective vaccines against both viruses
increase in infections amongst injecting drug users suggests
a need to re-examine the nature and range of services
provided”, conclude the investigators.
They recommend that research should be conducted in order to
provide services which “encourage and support hygienic
Health Protection Agency et al.
Shooting Up: infections
among injecting drug users in the United Kingdom 2004 an
update, October 2005.