The effectiveness of harm reduction in preventing HIV among injecting drug users

Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst NSW.
New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 03/2010; 21(3-4):69-73. DOI: 10.1071/NB10007
Source: PubMed


There is now compelling evidence that harm reduction approaches to HIV prevention among injecting drug users are effective, safe and cost-effective. The evidence of effectiveness is strongest for needle and syringe programs and opioid substitution treatment. There is no convincing evidence that needle and syringe programs increase injecting drug use. The low prevalence approximately 1%) of HIV among injecting drug users reflects the early adoption and rapid expansion of harm reduction in Australia. Countries that have provided extensive needle and syringe programs and opioid substitution treatment appear to have averted an epidemic, stabilised or substantially reduced the prevalence of HIV among injecting drug users. However, despite decades of vigorous advocacy and scientific evidence, the global coverage of needle and syringe programs and opioid substitution treatment falls well short of the levels required to achieve international HIV control.

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Available from: Lisa Maher
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    • "Thus the timely introduction of harm reduction interventions could prevent an explosion in HIV prevalence, as has occurred in other countries (Mathers et al., 2008). Preventing a widespread epidemic among PWID has been accomplished in many locations, including Australia and parts of the United Kingdom, where interventions were implemented before or at an early stage of viral diffusion (Iversen, Wand, Topp, Kaldor, & Maher, 2014;Stimson, 1995Stimson, , 1996Wodak & Maher, 2010). These examples illustrate that early prevention can be effective in both keeping HIV prevalence low among PWID and preventing the rapid spread of HIV within injection networks. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Heroin production in Colombia has increased dramatically in recent decades, and some studies point to an increase in local heroin use since the mid-1990s. Despite this rapid increase, little is known about the effects of these activities on heroin injection within Colombia. One of the biggest concerns surrounding heroin injection is the potential spread of HIV through drug user networks. Objectives: This article examines injection risk behaviors among heroin injectors in the Colombian cities of Medellín and Pereira to explore the implications for possible increased HIV transmission within this group. Methods: A cross-sectional study used respondent-driving sampling to recruit a sample of 540 people who inject drugs (PWID) over 18 years of age (Medellín: n = 242, Pereira: n = 298). Structured interviews with each participant were conducted using the World Health Organization Drug Injection Study Phase II Survey. An HIV test was also administered. Results: Information regarding the socio-demographics, injection drug use, HIV risk and transmission behaviors, injection risk management, and HIV knowledge and prevalence of participants are reported. The study identified many young, newly initiated injectors who engage in risky injection practices. The study also found that HIV prevalence is fairly low among participants (2.7%). Conclusions/Importance: Findings indicate a potential risk for the spread of HIV among PWID in Colombia given their widespread sharing practices, high rate of new injector initiation, and unsafe syringe cleaning practices. Colombia has a possibly time-limited opportunity to prevent an HIV epidemic by implementing harm reduction interventions among young, newly initiated PWID.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Substance Use & Misuse
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    • "Given their relatively low costs and evidence of effectiveness , NSPs are recognized as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions ever funded (International, 2012). Studies in numerous countries have repeatedly provided compelling evidence that NSPs are cost-effective both from societal and health sector perspectives (Vickerman, Miners, & Williams, 2008; Wodak & Maher, 2010). A systematic review found that all 12 included studies that examined the impact of NSPs on HIV infection found that NSPs were cost-effective according to the studies' defined willingness-to-pay thresholds (Jones, Pickering, Sumnall, McVeigh, & Bellis, 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: HIV prevalence worldwide among people who inject drugs (PWID) is around 19%. Harm reduction for PWID includes needle-syringe programs (NSPs) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) but often coupled with antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV. Numerous studies have examined the effectiveness of each harm reduction strategy. This commentary discusses the evidence of effectiveness of the packages of harm reduction services and their cost-effectiveness with respect to HIV-related outcomes as well as estimate resources required to meet global and regional coverage targets. NSPs have been shown to be safe and very effective in reducing HIV transmission in diverse settings; there are many historical and very recent examples in diverse settings where the absence of, or reduction in, NSPs have resulted in exploding HIV epidemics compared to controlled epidemics with NSP implementation. NSPs are relatively inexpensive to implement and highly cost-effective according to commonly used willingness-to-pay thresholds. There is strong evidence that substitution therapy is effective, reducing the risk of HIV acquisition by 54% on average among PWID. OST is relatively expensive to implement when only HIV outcomes are considered; other societal benefits substantially improve the cost-effectiveness ratios to be highly favourable. Many studies have shown that ART is cost-effective for keeping people alive but there is only weak supportive, but growing evidence, of the additional effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of ART as prevention among PWID. Packages of combined harm reduction approaches are highly likely to be more effective and cost-effective than partial approaches. The coverage of harm reduction programs remains extremely low across the world. The total annual costs of scaling up each of the harm reduction strategies from current coverage levels, by region, to meet WHO guideline coverage targets are high with ART greatest, followed by OST and then NSPs. But scale-up of all three approaches is essential. These interventions can be cost-effective by most thresholds in the short-term and cost-saving in the long-term. Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · International Journal of Drug Policy
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    • "Third, we know that it is possible to avert HIV epidemics among PWID. Large-scale implementation of HIV prevention programs, particularly needle/syringe access programs, when HIV prevalence is very low in a population of PWID can keep the prevalence low (under 5%) indefinitely [10] [11] [17] [18]. It is important to note, however, that there have been instances of outbreaks of HIV when it appeared that HIV was under control in the local PWID population. "
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    ABSTRACT: After 30 years of extensive research on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among persons who inject drugs (PWID), we now have a good understanding of the critical issues involved. Following the discovery of HIV in 1981, epidemics among PWID were noted in many countries, and consensus recommendations for interventions for reducing injection related HIV transmission have been developed. While high-income countries have continued to develop and implement new Harm Reduction programs, most low-/middle-income countries have implemented Harm Reduction at very low levels. Modeling of combined prevention programming including needle exchange (NSP) and antiretroviral therapy (ARV) suggests that NSP be given the highest priority. Future HIV prevention programming should continue to provide Harm Reduction programs for PWID coupled with interventions aimed at reducing sexual transmission. As HIV continues to spread in low- and middle-income countries, it is important to achieve and maintain high coverage of Harm Reduction programs in these locations. As PWID almost always experience multiple health problems, it will be important to address these multiple problems within a comprehensive approach grounded in a human rights perspective.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2013
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