HIV Among Needle-Drug Users Down 50%

HIV infection rate down 50 percent in intravenous drug users

March 5, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) A new report has revealed a small victory in the fight against HIV in the United States: The HIV rate among intravenous drug users has dropped by fifty percent in the past decade.

This is significant because intravenous drug users, or people who inject drugs with needles, are considered to be one of the highest-risk groups for contracting and spreading HIV.

But the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also contained some disappointing statistics. HIV testing has fallen and people are still engaging in risky behavior at high rates.

"Get tested for HIV and avoid risky behaviors."

The study, conducted by researchers at the CDC, was based on 2009 data collected from 10,000 people in 20 cities. It was reported in the Center's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC's National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System keeps tabs on risky behaviors associated with HIV, including intravenous drug use, sharing syringes, and unprotected sex. It also monitors the prevalence of HIV among high-risk populations such as needle drug users and men who have sex with men.

The researchers tested 10,073 IDUs, or intravenous drug users, for HIV in 2009. Nine percent tested positive, compared with 18 percent in the 1990s.

The bad news is that 45 percent of that nine percent did not know that they had HIV before the test, and a majority of them had engaged in high risk behaviors.

Many of those who were unaware of their infection reported engaging in risky behaviors. Sixty nine percent reported having unprotected vaginal sex, 34 percent said they had shared syringes, and 23 percent had unprotected anal sex during the past twelve months. More than half had more than one sexual partner.

These statistics represent a high potential for infected and unknowing individuals to spread HIV in their communities.

At the same time, fewer people in this high-risk population are being tested. Forty-nine percent were tested in the last nine months, a drop from the reported rate in 2005-2006.

The report called for stepping up prevention efforts in areas where HIV is common. “HIV prevention strategies for IDUs, including HIV testing and linkage to care, prevention and care for HIV-infected IDUs, and access to new sterile syringes, have been shown to be effective,” the researchers concluded.

The report was published in early March 2012.

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Review Date: 
March 4, 2012
Last Updated:
March 6, 2012