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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


Needle-Exchange Program Cut Hepatitis C Transmission Rate


According to a report presented to the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, injection drug users who began injecting drugs after the 1993 legalization of a safe needle program in San Francisco had a much lower risk of contracting hepatitis C virus (Hepatitis C Virus) than those who started earlier.

Before any programs were in place, most drug users became infected with Hepatitis C Virus within a year of injecting drugs. Now there is a delay in primary infections of 5 to 10 years, providing time for substance abuse intervention, said Dr. Brian R. Edlin, director of the Urban Health Study at the University of California, San Francisco and author of the report. 

Of the 969 study participants from neighborhoods in San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, 73 percent tested positive for Hepatitis C Virus antibodies. However, controlling for age, duration of drug use and number of injections per day, the people who used needle exchange programs as their main source of needles were half as likely to become infected with Hepatitis C Virus. In San Francisco, Hepatitis C Virus antibody prevalence fell from 89 percent in people who started injecting drugs between 1977 and 1985 to 76 percent in drug users who started between 1986 and 1988-after HIV outreach programs began. It fell to 59 percent in users who started between 1994 and 1998-when large-scale needle exchange programs were put into effect.


According to Miriam Alter, PhD, a co-moderator at the conference and chief of hepatitis epidemiology at the CDC, the next step for prevention programs is addressing practices such as sharing cookers, filters or rinse water. 

Source: Internal Medicine News (03.15.01) Vol 34; No 6; P 31; Jennifer M Wang; Courtesy of the CDC National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.