HIV and HCV among people who inject drugs in Central Asia

Nick Walsh, Lisa Maher
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2013, 132: S37-40

BACKGROUND: Over the last decade, Central Asia has become a focal point of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission among people who inject drugs (PWID). PWID account for the majority of HIV infections in most countries in the region, while a large proportion have been exposed to HCV. Shared modes of transmission of these infections point to an increasing burden of HIV/HCV co-infection in this population. HIV/HCV co-infection is more likely to result in progressive liver disease, increased mortality and hepatic complications from antiretroviral therapy (ART). While the HIV treatment response has improved, less than a quarter of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the region are receiving ART, with treatment uptake among PWID particularly low. HCV treatment is available in some areas, though at a very high cost to patients thereby preventing access to those at most need.

CONCLUSION: Robust surveillance of HIV/HCV infection among PWID is needed to inform a comprehensive response to HIV and HCV prevention and treatment among PWID, including increasing coverage of opioid substitution therapy (OST) and needle and syringe programs (NSPs), improving access and uptake of ART, and lowering costs and other barriers to HCV treatment across the five republics. Optimising uptake of these initiatives by increasing prevention and treatment literacy among PWID and decreasing barriers to screening and testing will also be necessary to mitigate the increasing burden of HIV/HCV co-infection in the region.

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