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Drugs: Misuse

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 7th January 2020.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of drugs policy in reducing the rate of infection from blood borne viruses.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

There is good evidence that a combined approach of harm reduction programmes such as needle and syringe programmes (NSP), opioid substitution treatment and abstinence-based treatment is the most effective way to tackle public health harms, including the spread of blood borne viruses (BBVs). Vaccination, testing and treatment of infection are also effective in the control of BBVs.

Public Health England monitors drug treatment data and anonymous testing of blood samples from people using drug treatment services or NSP. The data show that these interventions have been effective in reducing BBVs in people who inject drugs (PWID). For example, the proportion of PWID who have ever been infected with hepatitis B in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has declined over the past 10 years, falling from 18% in 2008 to 9% in 2018. In addition, HIV infection is uncommon among PWID in the United Kingdom, and HIV prevalence in this risk group is low compared to many other European countries. Overall, there were 95 new HIV diagnoses in the UK during 2018 which were likely to have been acquired through injecting drug use, down from 170 in 2008.

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