Treating HIV Drug Users Cost-effective

WALTHAM, Mass., July 23 (UPI) — French and U.S. researchers say treating intravenous drug users for HIV has been effective and saved money.

The researchers concluded drug users — including those actively injecting — were capable of positive choices to protect their health and that of their communities.

Treating human immunodeficiency virus in drug-users, the researchers said, has not increased drug resistance and preliminary findings suggested it reduced HIV transmission — independent of needle sharing.

“Our analysis focused on two treatments — provision of anti-viral therapy for and provision of methadone or buphenorphine for HIV-infected drug users. We found that both are highly cost-effective,” study co-author Donald Shepard of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., said in a statement. “Unfortunately, many barriers limit their use.”

Among barriers the researchers named were the banning of treatment of active users, the stigmatizing of drug users and treatment fees or requirements. They said law enforcement created blocks to treatment, such as police registries and imprisonment for possessing drugs for personal use.

“A basic challenge remains in the reversal of social forces, including popular opinion, that portray intravenous drug users as already dead or less than human, and so deserving of less-than-human rights,” the study authors said.

The study, published in a special series of The Lancet, was presented at the International AIDS conference in Vienna.

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