New HIV risk for people who inject drugs
A significant increase in the number of gay men injecting drugs and people injecting Image and Performance-Enhancing Drugs could lead to increasing levels of HIV, warns the National AIDS Trust today (6 July 2013).
NAT report ‘HIV and Injecting Drug Use’, based on the evidence of a number of experts in drugs and blood-borne viruses, found these newer injecting practices risk undermining the successfully low rates of HIV amongst injecting drug users (1.2%)
New injecting trends amongst gay men
The report found gay men are increasing using newer drugs, such as crystal meth, mephedrone and GHB/GBL, often sharing needles and using drugs in the context of risky sexual behaviour.
At one key service in London, 85% of gay men now report using one or more of these three drugs compared only 3% in 2005.
Yusef Azad, Director of Policy and Campaigns at NAT, said: “We are currently failing gay men who have problems with drug use and safer sex. There are few services which understand their specific needs and these services are massively overstretched. We need drugs and sexual health services work together to meet the needs of gay men, reduce problematic drug use and reduce HIV and hepatitis C transmissions linked to drug use.”
Other new drugs being injected - steroids and tanning agents
The report also highlights the rise in injecting of what are known as Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs) such as steroids or tanning agents.
This poses a significant HIV risk as these newer injectors may not understand safe injecting practices. There is evidence of elevated HIV and hepatitis rates amongst steroid injectors.
Yusef Azad Director of Policy and Campaigns at NAT, said: “NAT's 2010 survey of public knowledge and attitudes to HIV found only 45% of the general public knew HIV can be transmitted through sharing injecting equipment. If newer communities are starting to inject drugs, there is an urgent task to ensure health promotion and harm reduction messages reach these groups. Otherwise there will be new transmissions of HIV and hepatitis B and C.”
The report also criticised worrying comments made by the Government last year about maintaining people on OST (Opioid Substitution Therapy) – a key element in harm reduction. It also called on the Government to tackle the high death rates amongst injecting drug users. People who inject drugs and who also have HIV have a death rate twenty times higher than the rest of the population.
NAT’s report ‘HIV and Injecting Drug Use’ can be downloaded here.
Notes to the editor:
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