Drugs May Be Fueling Russia's HIV Infections

Alcohol and drug dependence behind surge in cases, study says

FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Drug and alcohol dependence may be fueling the potential explosion of 5 million new HIV infections in Russia over the next five years, says a study by researchers at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

The study, done in conjunction with Russian researchers, assessed 8,056 drug- and alcohol-dependent patients from the Leningrad Regional Center of Addictions (LRCA) near St. Petersburg.

From 1997-2001, HIV prevalence at the LRCA increased from zero to 12.7 percent overall, with 33.4 percent prevalence among drug-dependent people and 1.2 percent among alcohol-dependent people.

"The results of this study provide a stark message. HIV infection in Russia is exploding onto the scene, currently in injection drug users and potentially more broadly," study author Dr. Jeffrey Samet, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and chief of general internal medicine at Boston Medical Center, says in a prepared statement.

Injection drug use is a major risk factor for HIV, and studies have shown an association between alcohol use and unsafe sexual behavior. Russia's alcohol consumption is among the highest in the world.

Other studies have found that drug users who use alcohol are more likely to engage in high-risk drug use, such as needle-sharing.

"Interventions for the prevention of broad transmission of HIV should include extensive distribution of condoms, sex education in public domains, implementation of harm reductions measures for injection drug users, and a serious assault on binge alcohol use," Samet says.

The study appeared in the current issue of HIV Medicine.

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SOURCE: Boston University, news release, January 2004
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