HIV rampant among Spain's heroin addicts

14th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Spain ranks first in number of addicts infected with HIV virus as compared with other western European countries, says report.

14 May 2008

BARCELONA - Of the 84,000 heroin addicts in Spain, 39 percent are infected with the HIV virus, while 73 percent are infected with Hepatitis C, says report from the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA).

The IHRA aims to prevent the negative impact of drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Speaking on Monday at the XIX International Congress of Harm Reduction Associated with the Consumption of Drugs, being held in Barcelona until Thursday, executive director Gerry Stimson spoke of possible approaches to the problem.

"Like it or not, people take drugs," he said, "and the most realistic approach is to help them protect their health from contagion or from an overdose."

Spain currently tops the list of West European countries in terms of the number of addicts infected with HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, in spite of the fact that the number of addicts has fallen. Methadone programmes and needle-exchange systems have also failed to address the problem.

In Germany, where there are 150,000 heroin addicts, only 5.8 percent have HIV.

Public health issue
According to the experts at the meeting, heroin continues to be a huge problem in terms of public health. They also recommended harm-limitation policies for alcohol and cocaine, which are the most popular vices in Spain.

"The consumption of cocaine at the weekend gives people a false sense of security," said co-organiser of the event Joan Colom. "But there are cases of overdoses and, in place of infections, mental problems."

[El Pais / Monica L. Ferrado / Expatica]

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