Injecting drug users: HIV levels remain low, but risks continue


  • Jo Whelan
  • Medical News
Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals. Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals.

The number of new HIV diagnoses in the UK acquired through injecting drug use fell to 95 in 2018, compared with an average of 143 per year in the period 2008-2017. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the prevalence of HIV in people who inject psychoactive drugs (PWID) was estimated at 1.2% in 2018 – lower than in many other European countries. In Scotland, the prevalence was 2.3%. The figures are contained in the December 2019 update of Public Health England’s Shooting Up report.

  • Most PWID who have HIV are aware of their status, but an estimated 100 have undiagnosed HIV.
  • Half (49%) of new diagnoses in PWID were made at a late stage of HIV. These individuals are likely to have been living with HIV for at least 3-5 years before diagnosis, the report says.
  • Rates of viral suppression in PWID who receive antiretroviral treatment are lower than in other treated groups, at 93%. This could be due to nonadherence or reduced engagement or retention in care as a result of drug-taking behaviour, mental health issues, or personal circumstances, the report says.

The outbreak of HIV among PWID in Glasgow continues, with 12 new cases in the first half of 2019, compared with 14 in the whole of 2018. This increase is related to transmission among a population who inject drugs in Glasgow city centre, many of whom are homeless. HIV prevalence in this specific population has risen from 1.1% in 2011 to 10.8% in 2018.