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Rise in HIV infections in people who inject drugs - update 2017

There has been a rise in new HIV infections in the drug injecting population in Glasgow. On average there are 115 new cases of HIV a year in NHSGGC, the majority of which are sexually transmitted.   Transmission amongst people who inject drugs (PWID) has been low and stable since the beginning of the 1990s, with less than 10 new cases a year. However, in 2015 we saw a very steep increase in new cases of HIV in PWID, to 48. Transmission is on-going with 30 cases reported in 2016 and 32 cases so far in 2017.

It is important that staff and services who work with people who inject drugs:

1. Refresh the key facts about HIV

2. Understand Key HIV prevention messages:

  • The best way to avoid bloodborne viruses (BBV) such as HIV and hepatitis is not to inject drugs. Foil for smoking heroin is now available from all community addiction teams to help facilitate alternatives to injecting.
  • If people are injecting – don’t share equipment. Use a new set of sterile injecting equipment for every injecting episode.  This includes spoons, water and all other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs.  Injecting equipment is available free at the services listed here
  • Always use a condom for sex. Pharmacies and the Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre provide a range of free condoms.  For more information click here
  • Get tested.  You can’t tell by looking at someone if they have HIV or any other BBV.  The only way to know is to get tested

3. Encourage HIV testing

It is recommend that clinical colleagues in primary and secondary care offer an HIV test to all patients with a history of drug addiction, particularly injecting drug use, when they present for health care in these settings.  As there is significant overlap in the routes of acquiring HIV, HCV and HBV, it may be beneficial to test for all three infections if the patient’s status is not already known.

Staff who require further advice, information or support around HIV/BBV testing or related patient issues should contact the Sandyford STI Shared Care Support Service on 0141 211 8639.

4. Support patients to attend specialist treatment and care services, assisting those who are not currently attending to re-engage and to re-refer them if required. An outreach HIV treatment service operates form the Homeless Addiction Team at Hunter Street

5. Inform yourself with up-to-date facts. In partnership with Scottish Drugs Forum a staff resource website has been developed and a HIV - What Staff Need to Know booklet can be downloaded. If you would like further training on HIV or other BBVs please contact the BBV Training Team