Risky behavior and correlates of HIV and Hepatitis C Virus infection among people who inject drugs in three cities in Afghanistan

Horacio Ruiseñor-Escudero, Andrea L Wirtz, Mark Berry, Iliassou Mfochive-Njindan, Feda Paikan, Hussain A Yousufi, Rajpal S Yadav, Gilbert Burnham, Alexander Vu
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2014 October 1, 143: 127-33

BACKGROUND: Injecting drug use is the primary mode of HIV transmission and acquisition in Afghanistan. People who inject drugs (PWID) in the country have been characterized by high risk injecting behavior and a high burden of HCV infection. We aimed to estimate the burden of HIV, HCV, and other infectious diseases and to identify the correlates of HIV and HCV infection among PWID living in three major Afghan cities in 2009.

METHODS: Epidemiologic data was collected among PWID for the integrated biological and behavioral surveillance (IBBS) survey between May and August, 2009 in three Afghan cities. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire and biologic specimens to screen for HIV, HBV, HCV, syphilis, and HSV-2 using rapid testing kits. Multiple logistic regression models were constructed to identify correlates of infection.

RESULTS: Among 548 participants, pooled HIV prevalence was 7.1% (Mazar-i-Sharif: 1.0%, Kabul: 3.1%, Herat: 18.4%) and HCV prevalence was 40.3%. Almost all participants with HIV infection were co-infected with HCV (94.9%). Pooled prevalence estimates for other diseases included 7.1% for HBV, 5.5% for syphilis; and 9.3% for HSV-2. Living in Herat, ever in prison and time injecting were independently associated with HIV infection. Living in Kabul, Herat and time injecting were independently associated with HCV infection.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a high and heterogeneous burden of HIV and HCV among PWID in Afghan cities. Provision of comprehensive harm reduction services to PWID in Afghanistan is warranted to reduce exposures associated with HIV and HCV infection, especially in the city of Herat.

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