People who inject drugs

Globally, around 13 million people inject drugs and 1.7 million of them are living with HIV. Injecting drug use accounts for approximately 10% of HIV infections globally and 30% of those outside of Africa. Regional HIV prevalence rates are high in people who inject drugs in all parts of the world (up to 15.5% in East and Southern Africa).

People who use drugs are also disproportionately affected by hepatitis C. The estimated global prevalence of hepatitis C in people who inject drugs is 67%. Further, worldwide there are approximately 2.2 million HIV–hepatitis C virus co-infections of which more than half are in people who inject drugs.

Harm reduction (including needle/syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy) is an evidence-based approach to HIV prevention, treatment and care for people who inject drug and is strongly supported by WHO and other UN agencies. However, criminalisation of drug use and stigma and discrimination against people who inject drugs contribute to ongoing HIV epidemics as people who inject drugs fail to access harm reduction and other health services. In many settings, harm reduction programmes are simply not available or are extremely limited in accessibility and availability due to restrictive and ineffective policies and laws.

The following form a comprehensive package of health services recommended by the WHO for HIV prevention, treatment and care for people who inject drugs:

  • Needle/syringe programmes
  • Opioid substitution therapy
  • HIV testing and counselling
  • HIV treatment and care
  • Condom programming
  • Behavioural interventions
  • Prevention and management of viral hepatitis, TB and mental health conditions
  • Sexual and reproductive health interventions
  • Provision of naloxone and training on overdose prevention for PWID community