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People who inject drugs

Drug users

HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of injecting equipment, however the transmission of HIV via this route has remained at relatively low levels in the UK, and consistently contributes to about 2% of overall new diagnoses.

This is due primarily to needle exchange programmes and other harm reduction programmes, such as methadone maintenance (which is taken orally). In contrast, nearly half of HIV infections in Eastern Europe in recent years involved intravenous drug use.

In 2015, 190 people contracted HIV in this way. This figure was slightly up from the 160 figure reported in 2014, but this was mainly due to a localised outbreak of HIV amongst people who inject drugs in Glasgow in 2015.

In 2016 130 people contracted HIV through injecting drugs, to the number reported in 2014 and previous years. Prevalence remains low for new diagnoses for people who inject drugs (PWID), accounting for only 2% in 2016. 51% of PWID were however diagnosed late.

PWID who share injecting equipment are also at higher risk of infections such as hepatitis B and C. According to anonymous surveys, almost half of PWID may be infected with the more easily transmitted hepatitis C.


  • 130 new diagnoses in 2016, accounting for 2% of overall new diagnoses in the UK.
  • 51%  of new diagnoses in PWID were late.
  • 93% of people living with HIV who inject drugs received ART in 2016.

In the UK, HIV diagnoses among PWID have remained at a fairly low rate since the beginning of the epidemic compared to many other countries.



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 2/12/2016 by Kyle Christie

Date due for the next review: 2/12/2017

Content Author: D. Laycock

Current Owner: Policy

More information:

Public Health England, HIV in the United Kingdom: 2016 Report, London: Health Protection Services, Colindale. (December 2016)

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