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Health Care Services Found Lacking for Injecting Drug Users

Systematic review authors recommend urgent action to help prevent spread of HIV in this population

MONDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- Worldwide, coverage of services for injecting drug users -- including those who are HIV-positive -- tends to be extremely low and is insufficient to prevent the spread of HIV in this population, according to a review published online March 1 in The Lancet.

Bradley M. Mathers, of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues conducted a systematic review to estimate national, regional, and global coverage of HIV services for injecting drug users, and obtained national data on the provision of services for injecting drug users.

In 2009, the researchers found that needle and syringe programs had been established in 82 countries and that opioid substitution therapy programs had been established in 70 countries. They also found that the rate of needle-syringe distribution varied widely by region, with the highest rate of needle-syringes per injecting drug user per year observed in Australasia and the lowest rates observed in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Africa. Worldwide, they estimated that only two needle-syringes were distributed per injecting drug user per month, 8 percent of injecting drug users received opioid substitution therapy, and 4 percent of HIV-positive injecting drug users received antiretroviral therapy.

"In many countries and continents where the risk of an HIV epidemic in injecting drug users is emerging and the injecting drug user populations are large, the scale of the response has so far been poor," the authors conclude. "Urgent action is needed to improve coverage of HIV services in injecting drug users."

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