Objective: To describe and understand the genesis of the explosive 1988 HIV epidemic among Thai injecting drug users (IDU) in Bangkok.
Design: Two cross-sectional HIV seroprevalence sample surveys (SP-1 and SP-2) of drug users, including IDU at various stages of treatment. SP-1, a 10-week estimate of prevalence, was conducted by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) in their detoxification clinics from 5 January to 7 March 1988. SP-2 estimated prevalence in 1 week, 12-15 September 1988, in the same 18 BMA clinics. Both surveys included an administered questionnaire that gathered demographic and behavioral information.
Methods: Analysis of HIV prevalence by clinic in both SP-1 and SP-2, and the relationships between demographic data, behavioral variables, arrest history and HIV positivity in SP-1.
Results: Data from individual clinics in SP-1 show significant increases in HIV prevalence among IDU sampled from early February 1988. Of IDU sampled in five 'early' clinics before 9 February, 2% were positive; in the 13 'late' clinics sampled from 9 February until 7 March, 27% were positive. By September 1988, however, the early and late clinics were no longer heterogeneous for HIV prevalence. For current IDU, HIV-positivity was associated with the sharing of injection equipment in SP-1 [odds ratio (OR), 1.82; 95% confidence limits (CL), 1.31-2.53] and recent jail or prison stay (OR, 2.15; 95% CL, 1.18-3.98).
Conclusions: The behavioral factors associated with the HIV epidemic among Bangkok's IDU are similar to those described elsewhere. The monthly incidence of 5% from February to September 1988 suggests extensive needle or injection equipment sharing networks among IDU in Bangkok. Additionally, the pattern of HIV-positivity by detoxification clinic over time in early 1988, and then in September 1988 is consistent with a relationship to the prison amnesty of early December 1987. Shortly after that date, an undisclosed number of former IDU, a substantial number of whom were still injecting, and may have become HIV-positive while in custody, returned to resume injecting within existing drug-using networks throughout Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand.
PIP: This study was undertaken to describe and understand the genesis of the 1988 HIV epidemic among Thai IV drug users (IVDU) in Bangkok. Two cross-sectional HIV seroprevalence sample surveys were conducted of drug users at various stages of treatment at Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) detoxification clinics. The first survey was a 10-week estimate of HIV prevalence over the period of January 5 to March 7, 1988, involving 1649 drug users who volunteered to give samples of their blood. The second stage survey estimated prevalence over the period September 12-15, 1988, in the same 18 BMA clinics. 1811 drug users volunteered their blood for this latter survey assessment. The monthly incidence of 5% during February-September 188 suggests the existence of extensive needle or injection equipment sharing networks among IVDUs in Bangkok. Moreover, the pattern of HIV-positivity by detoxification clinic over time in early 1988 and in September is consistent with a relationship to the prison amnesty of December 1987 in which an undisclosed number of former IVDUs returned to resume injecting drugs in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand.