Increase in Heroin Availability in Australia Posing Risk of HIV
The Australian National Council on Drugs on Monday said that increased amounts of heroin entering the country from the Middle East and Asia could contribute to the spread of HIV among injection drug users, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The council's Asia-Pacific Committee reported that heroin trafficking has increased and that border detections of the drug were the highest on record in 2006 and 2007.
According to committee chair Robert Ali, heroin use and overdose deaths in Australia have decreased since 2001, but overall global production has increased, creating new risks. He said that an increase in the availability of heroin could result in "recruitment of new drug users," adding, "It's recruiting a new group of users into injecting who think there is no HIV and don't know much about hepatitis C and just feeling that it's not risky. There's a perception that all of this has gone away, that it's no longer a problem." He added that there is "a real risk" of HIV and hepatitis C among IDUs. ANCD reports that heroin imported from Afghanistan also is being more heavily processed to allow for easier injection (Sydney Morning Herald, 3/17). Ali warned that authorities should not become complacent, according to the West Australian. He said, "When we look at the global drug problem, the threat that is causing the most concern is the risk of HIV, and there are now 128 countries that have detected HIV among drug users." He added that one-third of all HIV cases outside of Sub-Saharan Africa are transmitted through injection drug use (O'Leary, West Australian, 3/17). According to Ali, Australia should work with neighboring countries to address the issue. "We need to get ahead of the game, we need to work with our near-neighboring countries ... to help implement things that work because that will be in our long-term domestic security interest" (Sydney Morning Herald, 3/17).