Only about half of HIV-negative people who inject drugs use syringe services programs, and nearly 70% reported having unprotected vaginal sex, according to CDC researchers.
These are among the figures published in an MMWR showing that more prevention and treatment programs are needed for people who inject drugs, or PWID.
In 2015, PWID “continued to report high levels of injection and sex risk behaviors, placing them at increased risk for HIV acquisition and highlighting the need for effective and comprehensive prevention services, including access to sterile injection equipment,” researcher Janet C. Burnett, MPH, of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, and colleagues wrote.
In 2015, the researchers surveyed and conducted HIV testing for PWID in 20 cities throughout the United States. The participants completed questionnaires during face-to-face interviews and answered questions about their behaviors in the prior 12 months.
In all, 10,348 PWID were included in the survey. The researchers estimated that the prevalence of HIV among PWID was 7% — lower than in 2012 (11%).
However, risky behavior among PWID persisted in 2015, Burnett and colleagues said. Of those without HIV, 27% shared syringes receptively, and 67% had unprotected vaginal sex — the same rates documented in 2012. In addition, 22% had unprotected anal sex and 45% had more than one opposite-sex partner.
During the 12 months before being surveyed, 58% of those without HIV had been tested for the virus, 52% received syringes from a syringe services program and 34% received all their syringes from sterile sources, the researchers said.
They added that, although HIV was more prevalent among black participants than whites (11% vs. 6%), whites were more likely to share syringes (39% vs. 17%) and injection equipment (61% vs. 41%).
Given the persistently high rates of risky behavior, the researchers said a comprehensive approach to PWID is needed.
“Persons who inject drugs need access to sterile injection and drug-preparation equipment; HIV and viral hepatitis testing; health services that provide treatment for HIV infection, viral hepatitis, substance use disorder and mental health disorders; pre-exposure prophylaxis; and education on drug- and sex-related risks and risk reduction,” they wrote. – by Joe Green
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.