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Estimates of injecting drug users at the national and local level in developing and transitional countries, and gender and age distribution
  1. C Aceijas1,
  2. S R Friedman2,3,
  3. H L F Cooper2,4,
  4. L Wiessing5,
  5. G V Stimson1,6,
  6. M Hickman1,7,
  7. on behalf of the Reference Group on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care among IDU in Developing and Transitional Countries
  1. 1Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour (CRDHB), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Department of Public Health and Policy, London, UK
  2. 2Institute for AIDS Research, and Director of Social Theory Core of the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research, National Development and Research Institutes, Inc, New York, NY, USA
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
  4. 4Medical and Health Research Association of New York/National Development and Research Institutes, Inc, New York, NY, USA; Associate Research Scientist, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY, USA
  5. 5European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Lisbon, Portugal
  6. 6International Harm Reduction Association, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  7. 7Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr C Aceijas
 Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Department of Public Health and Policy, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK; Carmen.Aceijas{at}


Objective: To present and update available national and subnational estimates of injecting drug users (IDUs) in developing/transitional countries, and provide indicative estimates of gender and age distribution.

Methods: Literature review of both grey and published literature including updates from previously reported estimates on estimates of IDU population and data sources giving age and gender breakdowns. The scope area was developing/transitional countries and the reference period was 1998–2005.

Results: Estimates of IDU numbers were available in 105 countries and 243 subnational areas. The largest IDU populations were reported from Brazil, China, India, and Russia (0.8 m, 1.9 m, 1.1 m, and 1.6 m respectively). Subnational areas with the largest IDU populations (35 000–79 000) are: Warsaw (Poland); Barnadul, Irtkustk, Nizhny-Novgorod, Penza, Voronez, St Petersburg, and Volgograd (Russia); New Delhi and Mumbai (India); Jakarta (Indonesia), and Bangkok (Thailand). By region, Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the largest IDU prevalence (median 0.65%) (min 0.3%; max 2.2%; Q1 0.79%; Q3 1.74%) followed by Asia and Pacific: 0.24% (min 0.004%; max 1.47%; Q1 0.37%; Q3 1.1%). In the Middle East and Africa the median value equals 0.2% (min 0.0003%; max 0.35%; Q1 0.09%; Q3 0.26%) and in Latin America and the Caribbean: 0.12% (min 0.002%; max 7.04%; Q1 1.76%; Q3 5.28%). Greater dispersion of national IDU prevalences was observed in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Asia and Pacific (IQR 1.91 and 1.47 respectively). Subnational areas with the highest IDU prevalence among adults (8–14.9%) were Shymkent (Kazakhstan), Balti (Moldova), Astrakhan, Barnadul, Irtkustk, Khabarovsk, Kaliningrad, Naberezhnyje Chelny, Penza, Togliatti, Volgograd, Voronez, and Yaroslavl (Russia), Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Ashgabad (Turkmenistan), Ivano-Frankivsk and Pavlograd (Ukraine) and Imphal, Manipur (India). 66% (297/447) of the IDU estimates were reported without technical information. Data on the IDU age/gender distributions are also scarce or unavailable for many countries. In 11 Eastern European and Central Asian countries the age group ⩽20–29 represented >50% of the total. The proportion of IDU men was 70%–90% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and there was a marked absence of data on women outside this region.

Conclusion: Unfortunately data on IDU prevalence available to national and international policymakers is of an unknown and probably yet to be tested quality. This study provide baseline figures but steps need to be taken now to improve the reporting and assessment of these critical data.

  • IDU, injecting drug user
  • PDU, problematic drug user
  • RAR, Rapid Assessment and Response
  • injecting drug users
  • age-gender distribution
  • developing countries

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  • Sources of support: The Secretariat of the United Nations Reference Group on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care among IDU in Developing and Transitional Countries (Carmen Aceijas, Matthew Hickman, and Tim Rhodes) is sponsored and funded by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). CRDHB is funded through the Department of Health. Mathew Hickman is founded through an NHS public health career scientist award. Samuel R Friedman and Hannah L F Cooper collaborations were supported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse grant R01 DA13336 (Community Vulnerability and Response to IDU-Related HIV). Hannah Cooper contribution was also supported by a Behavioral Science Training in Drug Abuse Research postdoctoral fellowship, sponsored by the Medical and Health Research Association of New York and the National Development and Research Institutes with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (5T32 DA07233).

  • Disclaimer: The contents of this paper, including data, analysis, interpretation, and presentation are the responsibility of the authors and not of the United Nations or the US Government, Medical and Health Association of New York City, Inc, Beth Israel, Columbia University, the Johns Hopkins University, or National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.

  • Edited by Peter Ghys, Neff Walker, Helen Ward and Rob Miller

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