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Prevention of infectious diseases

EMCDDA data collection on the prevention and reduction of infectious diseases among people who use drugs began in 2000 in the context of its project on drug-related infectious diseases. In 2002 the activity became part of the newly created harm reduction area. Data collection and analyses cover information on policies, interventions and best practice in the area of prevention and control of infectious diseases among people who use drugs. As part of its routine tasks, the EMCDDA is called upon by the Horizontal Drugs Group of the European Union to provide concise information on selected topics. In March 2005, a short briefing paper was prepared by the agency at the request of the HDG to summarise the European perspective on responding to blood borne infections among injecting drug users.

Every year, an overview of activities in infectious disease prevention in the Member States is included in the Annual Report; statistical data are provided in the health and social responses-section of the Statistical Bulletin.  A series of tables and figures provides information on needle and syringe programmes, including types of settings, number and spread of sites and number of syringes given out. Since 2009, data on the number of clients obtaining syringes from these specialist agencies are also available. Expert ratings on the level of provision and availability of selected interventions aimed at preventing infectious diseases among prisoners are also provided.

Results of the work in this field are available through EMCDDA policy briefings Drugs in Focus. Issue 4  highlights the challenge that drug injecting represents for public health policy, and Issue 11 provides concise information on the hidden epidemic of Hepatitis C among drug users.

A comprehensive overview of European trends in drug injecting, published in 2010, brings together the data on Europe’s drug injecting problem and trends in the availability of interventions to reduce infections and other harm caused by this form of drug use.

Based on an in-depth review of the scientific evidence which was carried out in 2010/11, the EMCDDA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control published in October 2011 a joint guidance ‘Prevention and control of infections among people who inject drugs’. The publication has been received very well among policy makers and practitioners and has been translated into several languages, including Polish, Czech, Estonian, Russian and within the framework of regional projects implemented by the EMCDDA’s Reitox and International cooperation unit into six Balkan languages. A brief version is also available.

Treatment guidelines are considered to be an important tool in steering patients to medical treatment. In 2004, a Consultant study on Hepatitis C treatment guidelines for injecting drug users analysed the guidelines applied in 15 EU countries and Norway and assessed in how far access to liver treatment for hepatitis C infected drug users is subject to specific conditions.

Despite advances in the treatment of hepatitis C virus infections and high prevalence of HCV infection among people who inject drugs, treatment uptake among this group constitutes a small proportion of those receiving HCV treatment. To advance the discussion, the EMCDDA organised a one-day expert meeting in July 2011, aimed at informing the conceptual framework for monitoring HCV treatment uptake among people who inject drugs in Europe (meeting report).

About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Thursday, 28 February 2013