The what, why and how of health and development

Half of people who inject drugs are infected with Hepatitis C says HPA UK research

Half of people who inject drugs are infected with hepatitis C and one in 100 have HIV as a result of their injecting, a new report from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has found.

Hep B and C are are the most common viral infections seen in drug users who share needles, both causing inflammation of the liver. However, since 2001 the number of injecting drug users who have been infected with hepatitis B virus at some point has fallen from over 25% to one in six in 2011.

In 2011 there were 132 new HIV diagnoses in the UK where infection had been acquired through injecting drugs, although the number of injectors living with HIV in the UK is low in comparison to many other European countries. Some places, such as Romania and Greece, have even recently seen large HIV outbreaks among people who inject drugs.

Dr Fortune Ncube, an expert in infections among people who inject drugs at the HPA, said:  “The sharing of syringes and needles is also a huge health hazard. Rates of sharing drug paraphernalia have declined over the years but it does continue particularly among young people, which is a worry. People need to be encouraged to use community-based initiatives to get clean needles and be actively supported in getting off drugs.”

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