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About 13 Million Injection Drug Users Worldwide Need Access to HIV Prevention, Treatment Services, UNAIDS Says

May 16, 2007

About 13 million injection drug users worldwide are in need of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services in order to control the spread of the disease, UNAIDS said on Monday in a statement released at the 18th Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in Warsaw, Poland, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports.

Prasada Rao, UNAIDS Asia Pacific regional director, on Sunday said that injection drug use is estimated to account for about one-third of new HIV cases outside sub-Saharan Africa, but only 8% of IDUs worldwide have access to HIV prevention services (AP/International Herald Tribune, 5/14). According to UNAIDS, injection drug use is a major mode of HIV transmission in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. In addition, drug use is emerging as a new source of HIV transmission in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, UNAIDS said. According to Rao, about "10% of all new HIV infections worldwide are attributable to injection drug use. If you exclude Africa, that figure rises to 30%." In addition, access to antiretroviral therapy is "unacceptably low" among IDUs because of a "lack of information, exclusion and widespread stigma and discrimination," according to UNAIDS.

To be effective, HIV prevention program need to reach about 80% of IDUs, UNAIDS said. In addition, programs targeted at IDUs should provide users with access to clean needles and drug-substitution programs, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. "The allocation of financial resources must be used in more strategic and innovative ways to deliver more effective prevention programs to people most at risk of HIV infection," Rao said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/14). He added that in countries where injection drug use is fueling the spread of HIV, "focused harm reduction programs which reach people who inject drugs must be built into the national AIDS plans" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 5/14).

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