Background: Syringe exchange programs (SEP) reduce HIV incidence associated with injection drug use (IDU), but legislation often prohibits implementation. We examined the policy change impact allowing for SEP implementation on HIV diagnoses among people who inject drugs in 2 US cities.
Setting: Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD.
Methods: Using surveillance data from Philadelphia (1984-2015) and Baltimore (1985-2013) for IDU-associated HIV diagnoses, we used autoregressive integrated moving averages modeling to conduct 2 tests to measure policy change impact. We forecast the number of expected HIV diagnoses per city had policy not changed in the 10 years after implementation and compared it with the number of observed diagnoses postpolicy change, obtaining an estimate for averted HIV diagnoses. We then used interrupted time series analysis to assess the immediate step and trajectory impact of policy change implementation on IDU-attributable HIV diagnoses.
Results: The Philadelphia (1993-2002) model predicted 15,248 new IDU-associated HIV diagnoses versus 4656 observed diagnoses, yielding 10,592 averted HIV diagnoses over 10 years. The Baltimore model (1995-2004) predicted 7263 IDU-associated HIV diagnoses versus 5372 observed diagnoses, yielding 1891 averted HIV diagnoses over 10 years. Considering program expenses and conservative estimates of public sector savings, the 1-year return on investment in SEPs remains high: $243.4 M (Philadelphia) and $62.4 M (Baltimore).
Conclusions: Policy change is an effective structural intervention with substantial public health and societal benefits, including reduced HIV diagnoses among people who inject drugs and significant cost savings to publicly funded HIV care.