Objective: To provide global estimates of the prevalence of injecting drug use (IDU) and HIV prevalence among IDU, in particular to provide estimates for developing and transitional countries.
Methods: Collation and review of existing estimates of IDU prevalence and HIV prevalence from published and unpublished documents for the period 1998-2003. The strength of evidence for the information was assessed based on the source and type of study.
Results: Estimates of IDU prevalence were available for 130 countries. The number of IDU worldwide was estimated as approximately 13.2 million. Over ten million (78%) live in developing and transitional countries (Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 3.1 million; South and South-east Asia, 3.3 million; East-Asia and Pacific, 2.3 million). Estimates of HIV prevalence were available for 78 countries. HIV prevalence among IDU of over 20% was reported for at least one site in 25 countries and territories: Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia and Montenegro, Spain, Libya, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Viet Nam, China, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, USA and Canada.
Conclusions: These findings update previous assessments of the number of countries with IDU and HIV-infected IDU, and the previous quantitative global estimates of the prevalence of IDU. However, gaps remain in the information and the strength of the evidence often was weak.