Eastern Europe still bucking HIV trend

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There has been a 33 per cent reduction in HIV infections in adults and children worldwide since 2001 but ‘little change has occurred in the HIV burden among people who inject drugs’, according to a report from UNAIDS. 

People who inject drugs account for more than 40 per cent of new infections in some countries, predominantly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with many of these countries ‘yet to demonstrate a robust response to this public health challenge’, says UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic 2013. 

Although people who inject drugs account for not more than 0.5 per cent of the world’s population they now make up between 5-10 per cent of all people living with HIV.

Progress in ensuring the ‘respect of human rights’ and ‘securing access to HIV services for people most at risk of HIV infection, particularly people who use drugs,’ has been slow, says UNAIDS, with ‘gender inequality, punitive laws and discriminatory actions’ continuing to hamper national responses. ‘Concerted efforts are needed to address these persistent obstacles to the scale up of HIV services for people most in need.’

Meanwhile a new study from Public Health England (PHE) has highlighted the HIV and viral hepatitis risk for men who inject anabolic steroids and tanning drugs. Researchers found that one in 65 of 395 men surveyed for the report had HIV, while one in 18 injectors had been exposed to hepatitis C. ‘Injectors of anabolic steroids and associated drugs are now the biggest client group at many needle and syringe programmes in the UK,’ said the report’s co-author, Jim McVeigh of Liverpool John Moores University. ‘This research shows that anyone who injects drugs is at risk of HIV and other blood-borne viruses, regardless of their substance of choice.’ 

UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic 2013 at www.unaids.org

Prevalence of, and risk factors for, HIV, hepatitis B and C infections among men who inject image and performance enhancing drugs at www.gov.uk