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Study shows lowest HIV rates ever among injecting drug users

Study shows lowest HIV rates ever among injecting drug users in New Zealand

New Zealand Needle Exchange media release, 22 July 2014

A recent study by the New Zealand Needle Exchange has revealed the HIV prevalence rate amongst injecting drug users in New Zealand to have fallen to just 0.2 percent; the lowest ever recorded in New Zealand and likely the lowest anywhere in the world.

“This is good news, not just for injecting drug users, but for the whole of society,” says NZ Needle Exchange Director Charles Henderson, speaking from the AIDS 2014 Conference, which kicked off this week in Melbourne.

“There may be six degrees of separation between any two people on the planet, but there’s only one degree of separation between you and the injecting drug user in your community. They may be a marginalised population but the fact that HIV has largely been prevented from spreading amongst injecting drug users has significant heath, economic and social benefits for all New Zealanders.”

Mr Henderson said the results show there needs to be more recognition, including from Government, about the vital role of the Needle Exchange Programme and its importance in reducing the overall harms of blood borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C among New Zealand communities.

“The progressive and early introduction of the needle exchange programme in New Zealand has meant the virus has been prevented from entering the injecting population, which has reduced its potential to spread more widely.

“Research in other regions where programmes providing sterile injection equipment and collection of used equipment don't exist show worryingly high rates of HIV among injecting drug users – as high as 50 percent in Russia,Africa, Asia and some states in the USA.”

The November 2013 Needle Exchange Programme research measured blood borne viruses among more than 700 people attending needle exchanges across the New Zealand. The ethically approved BBV Seroprevalence and Risk Analysis Study obtained blood samples and risk behaviour self-reports from attendees.

Research, including some by the Ministry of Health, indicates around one in every hundred New Zealanders is potentially injecting drugs, and may have done so during the last 12 months.

“It may not be something you see, but it’s out there and all around us,” Mr Henderson said.

“Continued investment and a scaling up of the programme will ensure the ongoing halt in the transmission of HIV. It will also protect recent gains made in reducing viral hepatitis (hepatitis B and C) and help make inroads towards reducing these diseases further – hepatitis C in particular.”

Find out more about the New Zealand Needle Exchange (including a short, informative video) at


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