Upsurge in HIV prompts review

by Gazette Reporter

THE Department of Public Health, HSE East is investigating a rise in cases of recently acquired HIV in people who inject drugs in Dublin in 2015.
According to the Department, evidence to date indicates that the increase has been occurring since June 2014.
One probable case and 15 confirmed cases of recently acquired HIV infection have been diagnosed in people who inject in Dublin from June 2014 to June 2015.
A further 16 possible cases are currently under investigation and new cases continue to be detected.
Among the 15 confirmed and one probable cases, 11 are male, five are female and the average age is 35 years (range 24 to 51 years).
A multidisciplinary incident team has been established to investigate and respond to this increase. And a case control study is under way to identify any association between use of the once legal amphetamine substitute, snow blow, leading to an increase in unsafe injecting practices, at-risk sexual behaviour, and acquisition of HIV.
Speaking to The Gazette, chief executive of Merchants Quay Ireland Tony Geoghegan said he believed a contributing factor to this rise is down to a laxity in precautions among drug users.
He said that drug users were no longer the biggest demographic of people testing positive for HIV.
This may partly explain why drug users have become less vigilant in using the cleanest methods possible when injecting drugs.
“People are getting cleaner injecting equipment and are using needle exchanges.
“But often the message that would’ve been banged home very strongly before, would have been that it’s not just the sharing of the actual needle or syringe that influences the spread itself.
“If you’re using the same spoon, the same filters all contribute to the transmission of the virus.
“There may have been an element of complacency in terms of the depth of intervention that people were making, because there hadn’t been any increase in intravenous drug users identified as being HIV positive,” he said.
He added that the increase in people injecting the once legal, so-called head shop drugs was another factor in this increase.
He said these drugs were more chaotic in nature, and those who injected them did so more often than heroin users.
They lead more chaotic lifestyles which makes them more likely to be less careful.
“What we’re trying to do about it is, number one, addressing the issue about complacency by upping the information with people who are engaging [with the service]; two, by trying to make the information more widely available that there is a risk around and that there has been an increase in infections and that people need to be aware of that,” he said.

Related Articles