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HIV incidence was 75 percent higher among daily users of Vancouver ís needle exchange program (NEP) than among drug abusers that did not use the program, according to a new study published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Medicine.  Vancouver , Canada boasts the largest NEP in the Western Hemisphere


Frequent Needle Exchange Use and HIV Incidence in
Vancouver, Canada

American Journal of Medicine
Volume 120, Issue 2, Pages 172-179 (February 2007)



Opposition to needle exchange programs has been fueled by a Vancouver study showing an association between frequent program use and elevated rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among injection drug users.


We evaluated possible explanations for the observed association between elevated HIV rates and frequent needle exchange attendance using a prospective observational cohort study of injection drug users in Vancouver , BC , Canada . HIV incidence rates were examined using stratified Kaplan-Meier methods and Cox proportional hazards regression.


Between May 1996 and December 2004, 1035 individuals were recruited. At 48 months after recruitment, the cumulative HIV incidence rate was 18.1% among those reporting daily needle exchange use at baseline, compared with 10.7% among those who did not report this behavior (P <.001). However, comparing HIV incidence among daily versus nondaily exchange users, while stratifying the cohort into those who did (23.2% vs 16.8%; P=.157) and did not (11.4% vs 9.0%; P=.232) report daily cocaine injection at baseline, the association between daily exchange use and HIV incidence was no longer significant. In an adjusted Cox model, daily exchange use was not associated with the time to HIV seroconversion (relative hazard=1.41 [95% confidence interval, 0.95-2.09]).


Differential HIV incidence rates between frequent and nonfrequent needle exchange attendees can be explained by the higher risk profile of daily attendees. Causal factors, including the high rates of cocaine injection and other local injection drug user characteristics, explain the Vancouver HIV outbreak.


a British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul ís Hospital, Vancouver , BC , Canada

b Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia , Vancouver

c Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia , Vancouver

d Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California , San Diego .

Requests for reprints should be addressed to Evan Wood, PhD, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, 608-1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver , BC V6Z 1Y6 , Canada .

PII: S0002-9343(06)00279-8


© 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.