Contrary to an earlier study, more frequent participation in needle-exchange programs does not increase risk of HIV infection among injection drug users, according to a study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Medicine, Reuters Health reports.
Evan Wood of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and colleagues examined possible associations between high HIV incidence and frequent use of a needle-exchange program in Vancouver, Canada. The study was designed to re-examine the results of an earlier study in Vancouver that found higher incidence of HIV infection among IDUs who more frequently used the needle-exchange program.
The researchers found that in comparison with less frequent needle-exchange users, daily needle-exchange program attendees were more likely to be female; Aboriginal or American Indian; living in unsteady housing; involved in commercial sex work; and daily heroin or cocaine users.
Almost all of these factors are associated with an increased risk of HIV transmission and explain the higher HIV incidence among more frequent users of needle-exchange programs found in the earlier study, according to the researchers.
Needle-exchange programs have been shown to reduce HIV incidence, Wood said, adding that "another important goal they achieve is making contact with this often hidden population and providing a venue where drug users can be recruited into addiction treatment and other forms of care" (Boggs, Reuters Health, 2/21).
The study is available online.