Injecting Drug Users and Health Risks
Individuals who inject drugs are “at risk” for acquiring HIV, Hepatitis C and other diseases. 9% of all new HIV infections in the United States involve injecting drug users, despite a decline in HIV in general. Of those who tested positive for HIV, 45% were unaware of their infection. A report published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) available at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/surveillance/resources/reports/2009report/index.htm has identified that of the group with unknown or untested HIV status, 69% reported having unprotected vaginal sex, 34% reported sharing syringes and 23% reported unprotected heterosexual anal sex during the prior 12 month period. Clearly, individuals who are injecting drugs are in a group with the potential for acquiring diseases with serious, life threatening consequences.
The CDC recommends a high impact approach to education and prevention and care for injecting drug users. The program includes: HIV and HCV testing, effective linkages to care and access to clean, sterile syringes. The CDC program is focused on addressing HIV and HCV infection rates through testing, treatment and clean needles. People who inject drugs also need access to drug treatment and support to get the help they need. Effective treatment begins with recognizing the problem, providing access to drug treatment and rehabilitation and helping people move towards a drug-free life after treatment through support groups in the community and aggressive after-care services. We hear about the “war on drugs”, but we also need to get people who use drugs adequate treatment.