Number of HIV-Positive IDUs in Sub-Saharan Africa Increasing, Researchers Say
June 28, 2006
The number of HIV-positive injection drug users in sub-Saharan Africa is increasing, researchers said at the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief meeting earlier this month in Durban, South Africa, PlusNews reports. Although a low percentage of HIV-positive people on the continent contracted the virus through injection drug use, recent HIV cases among IDUs have been reported in African nations including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, according to PlusNews. A study conducted by CDC and South Africa's Medical Research Council finds that some IDUs in South Africa were sharing and using the same needle up to 15 times even if they knew the risks associated with the practice. In addition, drug users had poor knowledge of HIV prevention techniques and where to access HIV/AIDS treatment services and were more likely to have unprotected sex than those not using drugs, according to the study. Okechukwu Nwanyanwu, CDC's director in South Africa, told delegates at the conference that commercial sex workers were especially at risk for contracting HIV because they often are forced to take drugs and are not able to use condoms consistently. "It's not a big problem right now, but it's one that is worrying and rising," Nwanyanwu said. He called for increased access to HIV testing and treatment services for IDUs, who might avoid health clinics because of fear of discrimination (PlusNews, 6/26).
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