Drug abuse and co-occurring infections are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Asian countries are particularly vulnerable to the deleterious consequences of these risks/problems, as they have some of the highest rates of these diseases. This review describes drug abuse, HIV, and hepatitis C (HCV) in Asian countries. The most commonly used illicit drugs include opioids, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), cannabis, and ketamine. Among people who inject drugs, HIV rates range from 6.3 % in China to 19 % in Malaysia, and HCV ranges from 41 % in India and Taiwan to 74 % in Vietnam. In the face of the HIV epidemics, drug policies in these countries are slowly changing from the traditional punitive approach (e.g., incarcerating drug users or requiring registration as a drug user) to embrace public health approaches, including, for example, community-based treatment options as well as harm reduction approaches to reduce needle sharing and thus HIV transmission. HIV and HCV molecular epidemiology indicates limited geographic diffusion. While the HIV prevalence is declining in all five countries, use of new drugs (e.g., ATS, ketamine) continues to increase, as well as high-risk sexual behaviors associated with drug use-increasing the risk of sexual transmission of HIV, particularly among men who have sex with men. Screening, early intervention, and continued scaling up of therapeutic options (drug treatment and recovery support, ART, long-term HIV and HCV care for drug users) are critical for effective control or continued reduction of drug abuse and co-infections.
Keywords: Asia; China; Drug abuse; HCV; HIV; India; Malaysia; Taiwan; Vietnam.