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Unsafe injections cause an estimated 1.3 million deaths every year.

HYDERABAD, December 04, 2009 (Balochistan Times): The most recent study indicates that each year unsafe injections cause an estimated 1.3 million early deaths, a loss of 26 million years of life, and an annual burden of 535 million US Dollars million in direct medical costs. Unsafe injection practices are a powerful engine to transmit blood-borne pathogens, including hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Vice Chancellor Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences Professor Dr. Naushad Ahmed Shaikh talking to reporter here on Friday said that HBV, HCV and HIV viruses initially present no symptoms. He said that HBV is highly infectious and causes the highest number of infections in developing countries where 21.7 million people become infected each year, representing 33 percent of new HBV infections worldwide, while unsafe injections are the most common cause of HCV infection in developing countries, causing two million new infections each year and accounting for 42 percent of cases. About Human Immunodeficiency Virus, he informed that globally nearly two percent of all new HIV infections are caused by unsafe injections. In South Asia up to nine percent of new cases may be caused in this way. Such proportions can no longer be ignored, Prof. Naushad added. Dr. Naushad Ahmed Shaikh said HBV, HCV, and HIV cause chronic infections that lead to disease, disability and death. Those infected with HBV in childhood will typically present with chronic liver disease by the age of 30 years, at the prime of their life, he said and added that this has a dramatic effect on national economies. In a tragic twist of irony, he said that health workers who aim to improve peoples health could be unintentionally spreading harm with every prick of an non-sterile needle, every time they toss a used disposable syringe in a vat of warm water for eventual re-use, or drop it in a trash can. Dr. Naushad Shaikh said that safe injection practices at hospitals and clinics can prevent transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases to patients and healthcare workers alike. Applying universal precautions and increasing the availability of post-exposure prophylaxis can also help dispel the reluctance and fear that some practitioners have to treating HIV/AIDS patients, he added. Without access to sterile injection equipment, he informed that thousands of drug-addicted men and women have shared contaminated needles and become infected with HIV. In turn, theyve passed the virus on to their sexual and drug-sharing partners, fuelling a fatal epidemic that under most circumstances is completely preventable. This report highlights the current status of the AIDS epidemic among injection drug users in the region and explores the public health consequences of practices and laws that limit access to sterile injection equipment, he said. Dr. Naushad Ahmed Shaikh said that findings and recommendations might be considered controversial and counter-intuitive to war on drugs, but they merit consideration in the midst of twin epidemics that are claiming far too many lives. He said that the reuse of contaminated needles and syringes has long been established as one of the most efficient ways of transmitting HIV and other diseases including HBV and HCV is analogous to a mini-transfusion of the virus sent directly into the bloodstream. Dr. Naushad Ahmed Shaikh said availability of drug treatment on demand remains a critical goal and services must be expanded to better accommodate growing and diversifying community needs. These services should include a full range of modalities for treatment of users of all types of injectable and non-injectable drugs with a variety of family/life situations, he said. Vice Chancellor also said that it will require more funding and commitment from federal, provincial and local governments, but it is the time to take a hard look at the scientific data and to rethink the value of a law enforcement response to a public health problem. Social service agencies, community-based organizations, housing providers and primary care facilities must become more willing to serve and user-friendlier towards those who are actively using drugs, Naushad added.

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Publication:Balochistan Times (Baluchistan Province, Pakistan)
Date:Dec 4, 2009
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