Public Health officials today urged drug injectors to protect themselves and those around them as the number of new HIV infections in this risk group have increased significantly since last year.
There are on average 115 new cases of HIV in Greater Glasgow and Clyde each year, the majority being sexually transmitted. The number of cases thought to be transmitted through injection drug use is on average 10 new cases per year, but this year there have been 17 cases so far.
By taking precautions drug injectors can protect themselves from HIV and other infections which can be transmitted through the sharing of needles or unprotected sex.
Dr Catriona Milosevic, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde wants drug injectors to be aware of the risks. They are being reminded to use fresh equipment every time they inject and condoms for sexual intercourse. They are also being encouraged to take up testing for HIV and other blood borne viruses.
She said: “Already this year we have seen the number of new HIV infections in people who have a history of injecting drugs exceed the number for the whole of 2014. We are very concerned to see signs of increased HIV transmission in this population.
“We need people who are injecting drugs to be aware of the risks. HIV has not gone away and is a risk now. There are three key messages: if you are injecting use clean fresh equipment and never share, use a condom for sex, and take an HIV test. You won’t know if you have HIV unless you test and it is important to diagnose and treat HIV early.
“There is support available for drug injectors including foil for smoking heroin as an alternative to injecting, and needle exchange units who provide a range of clean equipment. No drug injector needs to share equipment when it is readily available.
“The ultimate goal for the NHS is for drug users to recover from their addiction and remain drug free. However until someone is ready to seek and receive help it is important to keep them as safe as possible while they continue to use drugs.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde works closely with Glasgow City Council to provide drug users with a range of services to support them and provide with them clean equipment.
Susanne Miller, Glasgow’s Chief Social Work Officer and chair of the city’s Alcohol and Drug Partnership, said: “The rise of HIV cases among those who inject drugs is clearly an issue of concern.
“Our street teams are constantly seeking to engage with those with addictions issues to divert them to the appropriate services.
“Clean needles are widely available for injectors and staff routinely spell out the dangers of sharing needles with other users.
“Our addiction service provides treatment services for thousands of individuals every year and we are fully focused on working towards the recovery of those individuals.
“We urge anyone who has issues with drug to access the range of services available across Glasgow and help to reduce their risk of harm.”
For further information either telephone 0141 201 4429 or email [email protected].