The impact of changes to heroin supply on blood-borne virus notifications and injecting related harms in New South Wales, Australia

Day, Carolyn; Degenhardt, Louisa; Gilmour, Stuart; Hall, Wayne
January 2005
BMC Public Health;2005, Vol. 5 Issue 1, p84
Academic Journal
Background: In early 2001 Australia experienced a sudden and unexpected disruption to heroin availability, know as the 'heroin shortage'. This 'shortage has been linked to a decrease in needle and syringe output and therefore possibly a reduction in injecting drug use. We aimed to examine changes, if any, in blood-borne viral infections and presentations for injecting related problems related to injecting drug use following the reduction heroin availability in Australia, in the context of widespread harm reduction measures. Methods: Time series analysis of State level databases on HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C notifications and hospital and emergency department data. Examination of changes in HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C notifications and hospital and emergency department admissions for injection-related problems following the onset of the heroin shortage; non-parametric curve-fitting of number of hepatitis C notifications among those aged 15-19 years. Results: There were no changes observed in hospital visits for injection-related problems. There was no change related to the onset heroin shortage in the number of hepatitis C notifications among persons aged 15-19 years, but HCV notifications have subsequently decreased in this group. No change occurred in HIV and hepatitis B notifications. Conclusion: A marked reduction in heroin supply resulted in no increase in injection-related harm at the community level. However, a delayed decrease in HCV notifications among young people may be related. These changes occurred in a setting with widespread, publicly funded harm reduction initiatives.


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