Background HIV and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is one of the most frequent chronic blood-borne infections among injecting drug users (IDU) causing significant morbidity and mortality among them and their sexual partners. Currently, injection drug use is the dominant risk factor for HIV and HCV transmission due to sharing syringes and drug injection equipment and is implicated in 30–40% of recent HCV cases in Albania. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and risk behaviours of HIV, HCV infection and Syphilis among IDU in Tirana, Albania.
Methodology Data were collected from June to November 2011 among Needle Exchange Program (NEP) users in Tirana, Albania using Respondent-Driven Sampling (RDS). Structured questionnaires were administered to measure drug use and sexual risk behaviours. Rapid test technique was used to determine the HCV, HIV and Syphilis prevalence.
Results 68 (34%) participants were positive for HCV; 1 (0.5%) for HIV and 2 (1%) with Syphilis. Heroin (93.2%) was the most frequently used drug, followed by diazepam (33.4%) and cocaine (30%). Risk factors for HCV infection included unsafe cleaning practises and sharing drug injection equipments. 40% of IDU have injected with a used needle, 34.1% sharing needles with 3 or fewer persons and 88% drew drug solution from a common container. Unsafe sex and multiple drug-using sexual partners were associated with HIV infection.
Discussion Results indicate that HCV prevalence remains unacceptably high among IDU when compared to the estimated HIV or Syphilis prevalence IDU is strongly associated with significant drug use and needle-sharing behaviours. HIV and Syphilis prevalence appear to be low and are mostly associated with sexual risk behaviours. The presence of HIV, HCV and Syphilis among NEP users suggests that these venues provide a good opportunity to provide continues prevention and care services to IDU and their partners.
- Hepatitis C
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