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Study: One out of Five Injecting Drug Users Worldwide Believed to Be HIV-Positive

September 24, 2008

New estimates by an international panel of experts calculate that nearly 16 million people in the world are injection drug users (IDUs), and about 20 percent of them are believed to be HIV-positive.

The researchers, Dr. Bradley M. Mathers of the University of New South Wales and colleagues from the 2007 Reference Group to the UN on HIV and Injecting Drug Use, reviewed published and online databases covering 200 nations or territories. Information on drug injecting was available for 148, of which 120 have reported HIV among IDUs. Among key findings:

  • The extrapolated estimate suggests that 15.9 million people are IDUs.
  • The largest numbers of injectors were found in China, the United States, and Russia, where mid-estimates of HIV prevalence in IDUs were 12 percent, 16 percent, and 37 percent, respectively.
  • In five countries, HIV prevalence among IDUs was 20-40 percent.
  • In nine countries -- Estonia, Argentina, Brazil, Kenya, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Nepal -- HIV prevalence among IDUs was more than 40 percent.
  • Worldwide, 3 million IDUs are believed to be HIV-positive.

"The number of countries in which the injection of drugs has been reported has increased over the last decade," the researchers concluded. "The high prevalence of HIV among many populations of [IDUs] represents a substantial global health challenge." The authors wrote that IDUs represent a population that has "fallen through the cracks" and is now driving the HIV epidemics in many parts of the world.

The report, "Global Epidemiology of Injecting Drug Use and HIV Among People Who Inject Drugs: A Systematic Review," was published in The Lancet (2008; doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61311-2).

Back to other news for September 2008

Adapted from:
Reuters Health

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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