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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


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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