People who inject drugs (PWID) are a key population affected by the global HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemics. HIV and HCV prevention interventions for PWID include needle and syringe programmes (NSP), opioid substitution therapy (OST), HIV counselling and testing, HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART), and condom distribution programmes. We aimed to produce country-level, regional, and global estimates of coverage of NSP, OST, HIV testing, ART, and condom programmes for PWID.
We completed searches of peer-reviewed (MEDLINE, Embase, and PsycINFO), internet, and grey literature databases, and disseminated data requests via social media and targeted emails to international experts. Programme and survey data on each of the named interventions were collected. Programme data were used to derive country-level estimates of the coverage of interventions in accordance with indicators defined by WHO, UNAIDS, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Regional and global estimates of NSP, OST, and HIV testing coverage were also calculated. The protocol was registered on PROSPERO, number CRD42017056558.
In 2017, of 179 countries with evidence of injecting drug use, some level of NSP services were available in 93 countries, and there were 86 countries with evidence of OST implementation. Data to estimate NSP coverage were available for 57 countries, and for 60 countries to estimate OST coverage. Coverage varied widely between countries, but was most often low according to WHO indicators (<100 needle-syringes distributed per PWID per year; <20 OST recipients per PWID per year). Data on HIV testing were sparser than for NSP and OST, and very few data were available to estimate ART access among PWID living with HIV. Globally, we estimate that there are 33 (uncertainty interval [UI] 21-50) needle-syringes distributed via NSP per PWID annually, and 16 (10-24) OST recipients per 100 PWID. Less than 1% of PWID live in countries with high coverage of both NSP and OST (>200 needle-syringes distributed per PWID and >40 OST recipients per 100 PWID).
Coverage of HIV and HCV prevention interventions for PWID remains poor and is likely to be insufficient to effectively prevent HIV and HCV transmission. Scaling up of interventions for PWID remains a crucial priority for halting the HIV and HCV epidemics.
Open Society Foundations, The Global Fund, WHO, UNAIDS, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Australian National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales Sydney