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Alert in Colombia: study reveals high prevalence of HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B and C in people who inject drugs

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The Ministry of Justice revealed this May 12 the results of the study of prevalence of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis and associated behaviors in people who inject drugs, which was carried out last year.

The study was carried out with entities led by Ministry of Justice and Law, together with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and the Territorial Development Promotion Company (ENTerritorio), in coordination with the Salutia Foundation and the CES University.

The study was carried out in six Colombian cities and estimated the prevalence of the aforementioned diseases, and also analyzed the behaviors associated with the consumption of psychoactive substances in people aged 18 and over who inject drugs.

Between June and December of the previous year, a targeted sampling was carried out involving 1,733 people who inject drugs in Bogota, Cali, Medellin, Pereira, Armenia and Cucuta and in which a structured survey was applied. The diagnosis of the four diseases was achieved thanks to the application of rapid tests that are used in population screening programs and require a blood sample.

It should be noted that among the population characterized in the capitals of Quindío and Norte de Santander -where the highest prevalences occur- more than 60% were between 25 and 44 years old, earned less than the minimum wage and belonged to the subsidized regime. Regarding substance use, the highest prevalences were related to heroin, marijuana, alcohol cigarettes, basuco and methadone.

On the other hand, Medellín, Cali, Pereira and Cúcuta present the highest recent consumption of heroin (last six months). That of marijuana, also in the last semester, exceeds 60% in the six cities, with Bogotá being the one with the highest figure (91.3%). In Cali, Pereira and Armenia, the highest consumption of bazuco was identified in the last six months, with percentages above 70%; and in Armenia and Cúcuta this substance begins to be consumed, on average, at the age of 13.

HIV prevalence in Cali was 23.9%; in Pereira/Dosquebradas, 17.6%; in Medellin, 11.2%, in Armenia, 6%; in Cúcuta, 4.6%; and in Bogotá, 3.2%. Regarding hepatitis C, the indicator was 80.2% in Cali. It is followed by Pereira/Dosquebradas (71.4%), Armenia (69.6%), Cúcuta (62.8%), Medellín (32.7%) and Bogotá. (10.7%). Regarding syphilis, the highest positivity was identified in Armenia (16.6%), followed by Cúcuta (15%) and Cali (11.8%).

For the Ministry of Justice, the results are worrying, since they translate into a public health alert and allow identifying the characteristics of consumption in people who inject drugs, as well as guiding the design of strategies, plans, programs and projects to strengthen public politics.

The portfolio assured that it is necessary to strengthen territorial planning processes with collective interventions and initiatives aimed at reducing risks and damages in this population, in order to generate a great impact, reducing risky behaviors and improving practices at the time to inject.

It is worth noting that the Ministry of Justice and Law, through the Colombian Drug Observatory, has coordinated periodically and in various population groups, conducting studies on drug use, behavior of injecting drug users and chemical characterization of synthetic drugs, heroin and cocaine.

“In this way, the portfolio promotes significant advances in the consolidation of lines of research on the use of psychoactive substances, which generate periodic and standardized studies that allow guiding public policy actions and constitute robust and solid information, cited and referenced in multiple documents. and reports”, concluded the Ministry of Justice.

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