Drug consumption rooms are among the six key interventions to prevent and control infections among people who inject drugs, according to new public health guidance published jointly by EMCDDA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
While there has been a ‘steady reduction’ in the number of HIV diagnoses over the last decade among people in the EU/EEA who inject drugs, very few countries have seen a significant reduction in hepatitis C infections, says the document.
Alongside the still-controversial consumption rooms, the other five key interventions are listed as sterile injecting equipment, voluntary and confidential infectious disease testing, infectious disease treatment, opioid agonist treatment – including in prisons – and finally, vaccinations against hep A and B, respiratory infections, tetanus, and the pneumococcal and the human papillomavirus vaccines for people living with HIV who inject drugs. The interventions should be delivered in ‘combination with each other and with health promotion activities that target structural and individual factors that promote healthier and/or safer behaviours’, the guidance states.
‘There are better and more effective tools than ever before to prevent, detect and treat infections associated with injecting drug use,’ said ECDC’s director, Andrea Ammon. ‘However, access to these services is often hindered by barriers like stigma, discrimination, or legal concerns. When designing strategies, policies, and programmes to address infectious diseases among people who inject drugs, policy makers and public health planners should consider approaches that limit and overcome these barriers and that promote service accessibility, uptake and coverage through the combined provision of interventions.’
The guidance reiterates the need for countries to ‘expand their coverage of a number of life-saving harm-reduction and treatment services which have proven to be effective in preventing and controlling infectious diseases among people who inject drugs’, added EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel. ‘We have the knowledge. We now need to ensure that these interventions are delivered at optimal scale.’
Prevention and control of infectious diseases among people who inject drugs — 2023 update available here