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You, Me & HIV - USA

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As a person who  injects drugs, Justin is part of a group of people known to be vulnerable to HIV infection. Sharing needles and injecting equipment carries a high risk of HIV transmission, three times higher than that of having unprotected sex. 1

Fortunately, the consistent use of clean injecting equipment can eliminate the risk of HIV transmission through injecting. Justin is lucky enough to be able to access a needle and syringe exchange programme (NSP), where he can access new sterile needles and syringes. This is an important HIV prevention service for himself and other IDUs. When accessing these services, Justin can also learn about safe injection practices, needle sterilisation, equipment disposal, and safer sex. The NSP also provides referral to HIV testing and HIV treatment services. Needle exchanges are vital as they are often the only way that injecting drug users are exposed to these services.

However, needle exchanges only exist in 86 countries worldwide, despite many more reporting HIV amongst their injecting populations. 2 As Justin lives in the U.S, it wasn’t until 2009 that a federal funding ban for needle exchanges was lifted and he was able to access an NSP. 3 Many states still have laws that restrict the implementation of these  harm reduction programmes, exacerbating the hidden HIV epidemic among injecting drug users.

Around the world, about 15 million people inject drugs and 3 million of these people are living with HIV. 4 This corresponds to roughly 5-10 percent of new HIV infections resulting from needle sharing. 5

It is important that vulnerable groups like IDUs can access HIV prevention information. AVERT has a resources section where you can access various types of HIV information and share it with your networks.

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