HIV cases involving drug users in Visayas on the rise—lawmaker

A total of 2,199 drug users—2,071 males and 128 females—have been reported infected with HIV after sharing contaminated needles, a lawmaker from the Visayas region said on Monday.

Citing a Department of Health report, Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said nearly all, or 99 percent, of the reported cases of infection through needle-sharing from January 1984 to April 2019 were from Central Visayas.

“The growing abuse of synthetic opioid painkillers, particularly Nubain, is a serious health challenge, especially in Central Visayas. The DOH has to find ways to address the demand side of the problem,” Gullas said.

“We are also counting on the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to suppress the supply side of the problem,” Gullas said.

Nubain (Nalbuphine hydro-chloride)—a powerful narcotic analgesic that may be injected into a vein, muscle or fat—first emerged in Cebu in the early 1990s.

At the time, Nubain was classified as a “regulated drug” that could be prescribed only by physicians specially licensed by the Dangerous Drugs Board.

However, due to widespread abuse, the DDB eventually reclassified Nubain as a “dangerous drug” in 2011, effectively banning it.

Mere possession of Nubain ampules now carries a life sentence.

Citing a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Gullas said people who inject drugs “have multiple vulnerabilities to HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.”

Around the world, the UNODC said:

• Sharing injecting device is at least three times more likely to transmit HIV than sexual intercourse;

• There has been a 33 percent increase in new HIV infections among people who inject drugs in the last five years;

• People who inject drugs are 24 times more likely to acquire HIV than adults in the general population;

• Some 83 percent of the people who inject drugs and who live with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis C; and

• Eight percent of people who inject drugs have TB.

HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the body’s natural ability to ward off all kinds of infections. The condition still does not have any known cure, but antiretroviral therapy has been known to help restrain the virus.

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Topics: Department of Health , HIV , Nalbuphine hydro-chlorid , Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency , Eduardo Gullas
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