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HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs remains low

The transmission of HIV related to injecting drug use has been efficiently contained, according to a 20 year report released today by the Kirby Institute.

The report presents data from the Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey (ANSPS) from 1995 to 2014.

Around two thirds of Australia's primary Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) services participate in the survey and program attendees have participated on more than 45,000 occasions.

'One of the most important and striking findings … is that HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs has remained exceptionally low in Australia - below 2.1%,' said Dr Jenny Iversen, lead author of the report.

'This speaks to the absolute success of Australia's harm reduction efforts.'

Annie Madden from the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) - Australia's peak body for people who inject drugs - welcomed the results.

'It really is a major success story in the Australian response to blood-borne viruses,' she said.

Other findings included:

  • a decline in the number of people reporting reuse and sharing of syringes and other equipment since the survey began in 1995
  • Prevalence of hepatitis C (HCV) has remained stable over the last 50 years at 53-54%
  • blood borne virus (BBV) testing rates were  stable over the 20 years at more than 75% of respondents
  • only around 1 in 2 reported BBV testing in the past 12 months in 2014
  • the proportion of people with HCV who are on treatments has increased over the past decade but remains low, at 2% or less in all survey years
  • the number of young Australians injecting drugs has declined over 20 years
  • heroin and methamphetamine remain the two most commonly reported drugs last injected
  • the proportion of respondents from an Indigenous background has increased from 5% in 1995 to 14% in 2014

The Survey functions as a strategic early-warning system designed to monitor BBVs and associated risk behaviour among people who inject drugs.

'Our ability to collect this important data means that the dramatic surge in HIV that some states in the US are currently experiencing is unlikely to happen here,' said Annie Madden.

'Not only do we have a strong network of preventative services, we also have a comprehensive annual monitoring system in place, which means that any upward trend in new HIV cases would be flagged early enough to allow for a swift public health intervention strategy.'

The survey is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and is supported by a National Advisory Group comprising representatives from state and territory Health Departments, Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) and AIVL.


20 year report on Needle and Syringe Program attendees in Australia - Kirby Institute news item

20 Tear ANSPS Report: Key findings (PDF)




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This page was published on 15 June, 2015