Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jun 2009
Source: Egyptian Gazette, The (Egypt)
Contact:  Eltahrir House 2009
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


The prevalence of HIV among intravenous drug users (IDUs) in Egypt is
relatively low, but needle sharing is rife among this group, putting them
at risk of contracting the virus, experts say. "Sharing needles and
syringes is very high in Egypt.

This is very alarming because although only one per cent of IDUs are
HIV-positive, the high percentage of needle sharing may mean that we are
sitting on a ticking bomb," Ehab Kharrat, a senior programme advisor for
the UNDP HIV/AIDS Regional Programme in the Arab States (HARPAS), said.
Different studies of sample groups show that 45-50 per cent of drug users
in Egypt share needles, he said. "When the IDUs get the drugs, many of
them do not wait to get a clean needle or syringe, so they grab the next
available one they find," Midhat el-Arabi, the head of a programme dealing
with drug users at the Freedom Drug Rehabilitation Centre, a local NGO,
said. "They [addicts] believe that securing the tool [the syringe] first
is a bad omen," said 29-year-old Mohamed (he preferred to give his first
name only), who stopped injecting himself eight months ago, said. "I used
to buy the narcotic first then inject myself with the first syringe I
found." "This belief increases the risk of needle sharing and hence the
transmission of HIV and other [blood transmittable] diseases," Midhat
el-Arabi told Reuters. Mohamed said he knew he contracted HIV five months
ago, a few months after he gave up drugs. "I am quite sure I got it from
needle sharing.

I did not engage in any sexual relationship or undergo a blood
transfusion."A 2007 study, on drug addiction in Egypt by the National
Centre for Social and Criminal Research, showed that 600,000-800,000
people suffer from 'substance dependency disorder' - about 0.8 per cent of
the country's 76 million population, Kharrat, said. "But the promising
thing is that right now we have four or five outreach projects for IDUs in
Egypt and these projects are effective. There are also drug rehabilitation
centres which have started to have an impact and hopefully will prevent an
HIV epidemic from spreading among IDUs," Kharrat said, adding that their
success rate in getting people off drugs was 40-60 per cent.
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