Global failure to curb HIV

Many nations are failing to roll out prevention strategies required to contain the spread of HIV among injecting drug users, a landmark Australian study has found.

The provision of HIV prevention services for injecting drug users, essential to contain the spread of HIV, is inadequate in most countries around the world and presents a critical public health problem.

The findings are part of a landmark review by Australian researchers published this week's in The Lancet.

"Injecting drug use is an increasingly important cause of HIV transmission in most countries," says the study's lead author Dr Bradley Mathers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at the University of New South Wales.

"Of the estimated 16 million injecting drug users worldwide three million are thought to be HIV positive. Injecting drug users are estimated to account for 10 per cent of all those living with HIV around the globe."

Dr Mathers and his colleagues found that while Australia rated as one of the best countries in the world for provision of HIV prevention services among injecting drug users, there were huge discrepancies in coverage worldwide including some countries having no HIV prevention services for injectors.

The current study is the first in the world to systematically assess the provision of interventions known to prevent the spread of HIV among injecting drug users, including: programs to provide clean needles and syringes, drug dependence treatments such as opioid substitution therapy, antiretroviral therapy for HIV and condom provision.

"Our findings suggest that, worldwide, there are few countries in which the level of intervention coverage is sufficient to prevent HIV transmission."

Read the full story on NDARC's website.

Media contact: Marion Downey, NDARC, 0401 713 850 or 612 9385 1080 | m.downey@unsw.edu.au