Spending shift offers harm reduction benefits

Angus Morgan

10 March, 2016

IMAGE: Professor David Wilson, Head of Infectious Disease Modelling

New Burnet Institute data modelling demonstrates that HIV-related deaths and new HIV infections among people who use drugs would be virtually eliminated by 2030 with a minimal shift in global drug control spending to harm reduction programs.

Professor David Wilson, Head of Infectious Disease Modelling in Burnet’s Centre for Population Health, conducted the research for UK based NGO, Harm Reduction International (HRI).

The HRI report, The Case for a Harm Reduction Decade: Progress, Potential and Paradigm Shifts, is being released ahead of the annual meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in mid March, and the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in New York in late April.

Professor Wilson’s modelling indicates a shift of 2.5 percent of the US$100 billion spent annually on global drug enforcement towards needle exchange programs and opioid substitution therapy, has the potential to achieve a 78 percent reduction in new HIV infections among people who inject drugs (PWID) by 2030, and a 65 percent drop in HIV-related deaths.

The modelling shows that redirecting investment by 7.5 per cent would reduce HIV-related deaths among PWID by 94 percent.

“This report presents clear evidence that harm reduction interventions are relatively inexpensive and can lead to large financial returns on investment,” Professor Wilson said.

“Most importantly, investing in what works – i.e. harm reduction, rather than funnelling money into largely failed punitive approaches – saves lives with massive population health benefits.”

It’s estimated that up to 22.4 million people inject drugs worldwide, and between 0.9 and 4.8 million of them are living with HIV. Globally, HIV prevalence among PWID is estimated to be 28 times higher than among the rest of the adult population.

HRI Deputy Director and a co-author of the report, Maria Phelan urged the UNGASS member states to switch their emphasis from drug enforcement and control to harm reduction.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor David Wilson

Head of Infectious Disease Modelling


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