Unprotected sex 'biggest HIV risk to drug users'

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The Independent Online
AN INTERNATIONAL study of the world's drug-injectors has found that infrequent use of condoms by addicts during sexual intercourse may now constitute 'the greatest threat' to preventing the spread of HIV infection.

The conclusion drawn from the findings of the study organised by the World Health Organisation came despite reports that progress is being made to stop the practice of shared needles and syringes.

The results of the study, carried out in 13 cities world-wide, were presented yesterday to the International Congress on Alcohol and Drug Dependence meeting in Glasgow. The WHO project conducted 5,900 interviews in an attempt to find common links between the behaviour of drug- injectors and the prevalence of HIV in Sydney, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Toronto, New York, Madrid, Madrid, Athens, Rome, Naples, Berlin, London and Glasgow.

Dr David Goldberg, from the Aids/HIV Surveillance Programme in Scotland, said that it was 'reassuring that in each centre at least 45 per cent of the sample claimed never to have shared needles, and that 70 per cent never shared more often than once a month'.

But the study's discovery that the non-use of condoms during vaginal intercourse was dominant in all centres was 'the issue that is most worrying'. Dr Goldberg told the conference: 'The risk of HIV being transmitted sexually from injectors to other injectors and then on to non-injectors remains extremely high, particulary in centres where large numbers of injectors are already infected.'