Statement for the Media-The Study on Injected Drug Users Completed
Only 1/4 of Intravenous Drug Users are getting tested for HIV, putting their wife’s and girlfriends and the rest of the Georgian population at risk for a widening epidemic
Curatio International Foundation, a Georgian think tank, says “motivating IDUS to get tested is the key to prevention.”
According to a recent study by Curatio International Foundation and Public Union Bemoni, the Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) can put their regular sex partners at risk of HIV infection by having unprotected sex with them.
The study, which was conducted in 2009 in five different locations in Georgia (Tbilisi, Batumi, Zugdidi, Telavi and Gori) found that only 25% of intravenous drug users have been ever tested for HIV through their lifetime -even though the testing is free and available in their communities.
The IDUs especially in Tbilisi are well educated and half are married. The majority of them started drug injection in their late teens. The most frequently injected drug by Tbilisi IDUs is subutex, while Batumi IDUs favor heroin.
The IDUs are quite knowledgeable on HIV transmission routes, however they still commit behaviors that pose risk to their sexual or needle partners.
About half of married IDUs have occasional sex partners and every second of them did not use condoms with such partners. This is particularly unconscionable because in most of cases IDUs do not use condoms with their wives, girlfriends.
Highest HIV rates and risky behavior were found among Batumi IDUs compared to other cities.
“Low uptake of testing services indicates that a large proportion of IDUs is unaware of their HIV status, which leads to high risk behaviors,” says Ketevan Goguadze, project manager, “Motivating IDUs to get tested is the most effective way to prevent spread this infection.”
The study was undertaken in 2009 under the Global Fund supported project implemented by Curatio International Foundation, a local think tank working on the health care issues, and its partner organizations.