Clean needles for drug injectors prevents HIV/AIDS

November 28, 2003

Important news for Global AIDS Day - 1ST December 2003

A new study reported in the International Journal of Drug Policy reinforces the beneficial impact of needle and syringe exchange programmes for preventing HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users.

The global study of injecting drug use and HIV infection in 99 cities showed that distributing sterile needles and syringes helps prevent the spread of HIV infection. HIV prevalence decreased (by 19 per cent a year) in cities that introduced needle exchanges, but increased (by 8 per cent a year) in cities that had never had needle exchanges.

The lead author of the report, Margaret MacDonald, said "The study provides additional evidence that needle and syringe programmes reduce transmission of HIV infection. The rapid spread of HIV among injecting drug use populations, and increasing rates of injecting in many countries calls for a vigorous scaling up of needle and syringe programmes as well as other harm reduction strategies."

Gerry Stimson, editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Drug Policy, announcing this study on Global AIDS day, 1st December 2003, said: "This study shows that levels of HIV infection decreased in cities with needle and exchange programmes, but increased in cities without needle and syringe programmes. This confirms other studies that show that harm reduction interventions are effective for preventing HIV infection in injecting drug users."

This study is one of 17 scientific reports published in a special issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy, reviewing progress with syringe exchange programmes in Brazil, China, USA (Anchorage, Baltimore, Harlem, the Bronx, Rhode Island, Sacramento), Vietnam, United Kingdom (Merseyside and Cheshire), India (Manipur), Australia, Russia (Moscow) and inside prisons in the European Union.

Tim Rhodes, editor of the International Journal of Drug Policy said: 'These studies join a wealth of international evidence in support of syringe exchange as a method of HIV prevention. It also shows that they can operate in a wide range of different settings and countries, including in prisons.'

Background information:
Measures to prevent HIV infection among people who inject drugs generally focus on preventing blood contact during injection by reducing injection or promoting use of sterile equipment when injecting. Needle and syringe programmes also provide education about HIV/AIDS, condoms, and referral to drug treatment. Consequently needle and syringe programmes are a key strategy for preventing transmission of HIV infection in many countries.

Margaret MacDonald (deceased), author of the report, was a senior researcher at the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, Australia. Further information about her study may be obtained from co-author John Kaldor, also at the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research

National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research
University of New South Wales
Level 2, 376 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Fax: 61 2 9332 1837

This special issue on needle exchanges was guest edited by Steffanie Strathdee and Francisco Bastos:

Steffanie Strathdee
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
615 North Wolfe Street
Maryland 21205
Tel: 410 614 4255

Francisco Bastos
Oswaldo Cruz Foundation
Av. Brasil, 4365 Biblioteca de Manguinhos 209
Rio de Janeiro 21045-900 Brazil
Tel/Fax: 55 21 22702668

About International Journal of Drug Policy:
International Journal of Drug Policy ( is a peer-reviewed journal published by Elsevier. International Journal of Drug Policy provides a forum for the dissemination of current research, reviews, debate, and critical analysis on drug use and drug policy in a global context. It seeks to publish material on the social, political, legal, and health contexts of psycho-active substance use, both licit and illicit. The journal is particularly concerned to explore the effects of drug policy in practice on drug using behaviour and its health and social consequences.

The information contained in International Journal of Drug Policy is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the Journal recommends consultation with your physician or healthcare professional.

The editors of the journal, Gerry Stimson and Tim Rhodes can be contacted as follows:
Telephone: 44 20 7594 0776

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. Working in partnership with the global science and health communities, the company publishes more than 1,800 journals and 2,200 new books per year, in addition to offering a suite of innovative electronic products, such as ScienceDirect ( and MD Consult ( bibliographic databases, online reference works and subject specific portals.

Elsevier ( is a global company headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and has offices worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group plc (, a world-leading publisher and information provider. Operating in the science and medical, legal, education and business-to-business sectors, Reed Elsevier provides high-quality and flexible information solutions to users, with increasing emphasis on the Internet as a means of delivery. Reed Elsevier's ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).


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