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Estimation of the impact of changing drug-use trend on HIV, hepatitis C and syphilis epidemics among people who use synthetic drug-only, polydrug and heroin-only during 2005–2035 in China: modelling study


Objective The rapid expansion of the recreational drug market becomes a global health concern. It is worrying that the bacterial and viral infection epidemics linking to drug use may worsen accordingly. This study aimed to estimate the impacts of changing trend and behaviours of using heroin only, synthetic drug (SD) only and polydrug (using SD and heroin concurrently) on HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and syphilis epidemics among people who use drugs in China by 2035.

Methods We constructed a compartmental model to estimate HIV, HCV and syphilis epidemics in the dynamic drug-use trend by three scenarios: SD-only use, heroin-only use and polydrug use based on Monte Carlo simulations. The parameters for the model were collected from a comprehensive literature search.

Results Our model estimated that polydrug use led to the highest HIV and HCV prevalence among three drug-use patterns. The prevalences were projected to increase from 10.9% (95% CI 10.2% to 11.5%) and 61.7% (95% CI 59.4% to 62.5%) in 2005 to 19.0% (95% CI 17.3% to 20.7%) and 69.1% (95% CI 67.3% to 69.5%), respectively, in 2035 among people using polydrug. Similarly, HIV and HCV prevalence in the SD-only group were projected to increase from 0.4% (95% CI 0.3% to 0.4%) and 19.5% (95% CI 19.4% to 21.7%) to 1.8% (95% CI 1.4 to 2.1%) and 33.7% (95% CI 33.2% to 34.9%) in 2005–2035. Conversely, HIV prevalence in the heroin-only group was projected to decrease from 8.0% (95% CI 7.6% to 8.1%) to 2.2% (95% CI 2.0% to 2.3%) in 2005–2035. Syphilis prevalence was estimated to remain unchanged in all population groups within this time frame. It was projected that the proportion of HIV transmitted by sexual transmission will increase compared with unsafe injection transmission in all people who use drugs from 2005 to 2035.

Conclusion Our modelling suggests that polydrug use is projected to lead to the highest HIV and HCV disease burden by 2035, and the proportion of HIV transmitted by sexual transmission will increase. Current HIV intervention among people using heroin seems effective according to our estimation.

  • HIV
  • hepatitis C
  • syphilis
  • mathematical model
  • drug misuse

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