HIV Risk among People who Inject Drugs

One of the three populations most at risk for HIV is people who inject drugs (referred to as PWID or IDU).

DPH NHBS IDU Summary Report
Download the PWID Summary Report

While HIV infection among PWID in Denver is relatively low (around 5%), it is important to remember that HIV can be transmitted via needle and paraphernalia sharing during injection drug use. The per-act probability of acquiring HIV from an infected source via needle-sharing is 63 per 10,000 exposures.

Trends in Injection Risk Behavior in Denver

Among people who inject drugs in the Denver metro area, risk behaviors appear to be decreasing. Specifically, fewer PWID are reporting using non-sterile syringes or needles, dividing drugs with a used syringe or needle, and using cookers, water or cotton after someone else.

Syringe exchange programs appear to be having an impact on the availability of sterile syringes in the Denver metro area. Syringe exchange programs can be an effective component of a comprehensive strategy to prevent HIV and other blood-borne infections (such as Hepatitis C) in communities that adopt them. The Harm Reduction Action Center has more information on syringe exchange in Denver.

Despite decreasing risk behaviors and better access to sterile syringes, HIV prevalence may be increasing among PWID (4.7% in 2009 to 6.0% in 2012 among those tested as part of NHBS in Denver). There is a need to increase HIV testing opportunities for people who inject drugs and refocus prevention efforts.

How to Use this Information to Reduce HIV Infection in Denver

Read the full report, "HIV Behavioral Surveillance in the Denver Metro Area: Understanding HIV Risk and Prevention Behaviors among Persons who Inject Drugs”. Apply findings to improve prevention, testing, outreach, and care services, particularly among PWID who are engaged in high risk behaviors. 

Additional Resources