Persons who inject drugs (PWID) are at increased risk for poor health outcomes and bloodborne infections, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus and hepatitis B virus infections. Although substantial progress has been made in reducing HIV infections among PWID, recent changes in drug use could challenge this success.
CDC used National HIV Surveillance System data to analyze trends in HIV diagnoses. Further, National HIV Behavioral Surveillance interviews of PWID in 22 cities were analyzed to describe risk behaviors and use of prevention services among all PWID and among PWID who first injected drugs during the 5 years before their interview (new PWID).
During 2008-2014, HIV diagnoses among PWID declined in urban and nonurban areas, but have leveled off in recent years. Among PWID in 22 cities, during 2005-2015, syringe sharing decreased by 34% among blacks/African Americans (blacks) and by 12% among Hispanics/Latinos (Hispanics), but remained unchanged among whites. The racial composition of new PWID changed during 2005-2015: the percentage who were black decreased from 38% to 19%, the percentage who were white increased from 38% to 54%, and the percentage who were Hispanic remained stable. Among new PWID interviewed in 2015, whites engaged in riskier injection behaviors than blacks.
Decreases in HIV diagnoses among PWID indicate success in HIV prevention. However, emerging behavioral and demographic trends could reverse this success.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH PRACTICE:
Access to comprehensive prevention services is essential for all PWID. Syringe services programs reduce syringe sharing and can help PWID access prevention and treatment services for HIV and other bloodborne diseases, such as hepatitis C and hepatitis B.