Only 4 per cent of global drug users with HIV receiving anti-retrovirals

Just 4 per cent of the worldwide total of drug users living with HIV are receiving antiretroviral therapy, according to Harm Reduction International’s (HRI) latest Global state of harm reduction report, while just 8 per cent of the world’s injecting drug users are estimated to be able to access opioid substitution therapy. On a ‘global average’, drug users are able to access just two clean needles a month, says the document.

While the last two years have seen an increase in the number of countries providing OST and needle exchange service, the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing HIV among injecting drug users by 50 per cent currently sits at just 10 per cent, the document states. In 2014, there were 68 countries or territories with reported injecting drug use that did not provide needle and syringe programmes.

The report also calls for a dramatic upscaling of OST and needle exchange provision in sub-Saharan African countries such as Tanzania, Senegal, Uganda and Zanzibar in response to the growing drug-related HIV/Aids epidemic in the region, with HIV prevalence among people in Tanzania who inject drugs estimated at almost 34 per cent. HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa driven by drug use were ‘as concerning as they are avoidable’ said HRI’s executive director Rick Lines.

Just 7 per cent of the UNAIDS estimate of funding needed for HIV prevention among people who inject drugs – US$2.3bn – has so far been invested. ‘In contrast to the lack of funding for harm reduction, each year governments spend over US$100bn on arrest and imprisonment of people who use drugs, destruction of drug crops and other drug control measures,’ says the organisation. ‘HRI argues that if just a tenth of this money were redirected to harm reduction, it could fill the gap in HIV and Hepatitis C prevention for people who use drugs twice over.

Global state of harm reduction 2014 at