For those who use injection drugs, there is a high risk of contracting HIV. The lifestyle of an injection user often involves parties in which needles are shared and disease is spread. However, multiple efforts have been made to increase education among injection users about the dangers involved in this type of drugs.
A new report published by the CDC offers insight into the latest trends among injection drug users. The report includes both good and bad news about the awareness of HIV and the prevention and education about the disease.
The CDC conducted interviews and test through the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System, a tool of the agency. The results shows that while fewer injection drug users have contracted HIV, there are also concerns that fewer users are being tested for the virus.
The report showed that 9 percent of those who had newly contracted HIV had done so through the use of injection drugs. This is encouraging news, given that in 2006, 12 percent of new cases were a result of needle use. The report appears in the March issue of the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
To gather data for the report, CDC researchers interviewed and tested 10,073 injection drug users in 2009 across 20 metropolitan areas in the United States. They found that for the 9,565 participants who did not have HIV or were not aware of having a case of HIV, only 49 percent had been tested within the past 12 months. By contrast, in 2006, 66.3 percent of participants who did not have HIV had been tested in the past year.
Another finding of the report is that only 19 percent of the 2009 participants reported that they had been enrolled in a behavioral intervention designed to minimize the risk of contracting HIV. In 2006, 29.7 of the participants had enrolled in this type of program.
The CDC’s survey has been in place since 2003. The objective of the survey is to measure the HIV risk behaviors, testing and prevention services in not only injection drug users, but also men who have sex with men and heterosexuals. The survey is conducted with all three groups every three years.
The survey includes questions about behaviors in the last year relating to sharing syringes and whether they had unprotected sex, in addition to whether they had been tested for HIV or taken part in a behavioral intervention related to HIV.
Of the individuals enrolled in the study who were tested for HIV, 9 percent were positive. Of those positive results, 45 percent were not aware that they had contracted the virus.
The researchers also found that 34 percent of participants had shared syringes in the past year, up from 32.8 percent in 2006.
While the CDC notes that some participants may have given inaccurate responses due to a social desirability bias, the findings provide support for increased levels of HIV testing and prevention of the disease among injection drug users.