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International AIDS Society to launch Virtual Media Centre in July to support opioid substitution therapy in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Date:7/19/2011

Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, injecting drug use accounts for approximately one in three new cases of HIV. In some areas of rapid HIV spread, such as in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, injecting drug use is the primary cause of new HIV infections. Legal barriers to scientifically proven prevention services such as needle and syringe programs and OST mean hundreds of thousands of people become infected with HIV and Hepatitis C every year. In Russia for instance some 60 per cent of new HIV infections are linked to injecting drug use and some 80 per cent of the one million people living with HIV are estimated to be less than 30 years of age. OST is illegal in Russia.

OST is proven to be one of the most effective methods of intervention, prevention and care for people who inject drugs and hence prevent the transmission of HIV. However, globally, treatment with methadone and buprenorphine reaches only eight per cent of injecting drug users. In 2007, only 2 per cent of injecting drug users in developing countries with injection-driven HIV epidemics was accessing treatment for Opioid dependence.

Many countries in the EECA regions have been slow to adopt human rights based public health approaches to illicit drug policy, despite compelling evidence that a human rights based policy and decriminalization of drug use is the most effective approach to decreasing HIV transmission and improving treatment outcomes.

Another major challenge is the criminalization and drug policy laws that many governments have in place. Because drug use is illegal, many local police forces increase surveillance near needle exchange programs or drug treatment facilities. This increased surveillance causes fear amongst drug users and increases syringe sharing while decreasing the amount of individuals seeking health-care. For those who are arrested or caught for illegal drug use, punishment includes harassment, beatings, or detainment.

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Contact: Lindsey Rodger
lindsey.rodger@iasociety.org
International AIDS Society
Source:Eurekalert

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