Pubdate: Wed, 19 Aug 1998
Source: Halifax Daily News (Canada)
Author: SHAUNE MacKINLAY -- The Daily News


A study of intravenous drug users in the province's eastern health region
found many have injected more than just illegal substances into their veins.

Tests of 92 injection drug users - most from industrial Cape Breton - found
five infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"We probably expected to find a few more based on what we had been told,"
said epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Stratton of Health Canada's Laboratory
Centre for Disease Control.

"That doesn't mean they're not there; it means we didn't find them."

The study was conducted between October 1996 and February 1997 by the
Health Department and the disease control centre after concerns injection
drug use was leading to AIDS cases in the region.

It did find a high incidence of hepatitis B and C among the drug users, at
23 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively.

"That's expected; that's what's been found consistently in other studies as
well," Stratton said.

Among the sexual partners of users, one per cent had HIV, five percent had
hepatitis B and one per cent had hepatitis C.

Public health staff recruited drug users through the local needle exchange,
a toll-free phone line, and the Cape Breton Correctional Centre. More than
200 current and former users were interviewed.

Risky behaviors among IV drug users were commonplace. Most, 64 percent,
said they borrowed needles and half said they lent needles or other
injection gear during the last six months that they shot up.

"This issue is not just an issue for inner cities .... It happens
everywhere," Stratton said.

The report made a number of recommendations. Among them:

local anonymous testing;

monitoring high-risk groups;

stronger drug-addiction services;

continued support for the needle-exchange program;

provision of infectious-disease treatment services.

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