According to studies from Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute, HIV is transmittable through sharing equipment that is used to prepare drugs before injection. The study also found out that if you heat the equipment using a lighter for 10 seconds, the virus is destroyed. The findings have helped to reduce the HIV transmission rates in London, Ontario. The findings were used to inform a public health campaign known as ‘Cook Your Wash’.
The two studies were initiated in 2016 to address a public health emergency in London, Ontario. In this area, HIV rates among the injection drug users had more than doubled. The Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (JAIDS) published the studies.
According to Dr Michael Silverman, the outbreak happened despite having Canada’s biggest sterile syringe and needle distribution program. It is a strong opiate substitution therapy program and also a HIV multidisciplinary clinic. He says they knew there had to be a new method of transmitting HIV at play.
The research team conducted interviews on 119 injection drug users as from August 2016 up to June 2017. They wanted to understand the injection behavior and the risk for HIV. They discovered that those sharing preparation equipment were 22 times more likely to contract HIV than people who did not. This is despite of them not sharing syringes or needles.
The equipment includes:
- Metal ‘cooker’- for dissolving drugs in water.
- A filter- for drawing the mixture into a syringe.
How the virus gets transmitted
The injection drug users agreed to reusing equipment when using controlled-release hydromorphone. It is an expensive drug and difficult to dissolve. Large amounts of it remain in the equipment after the first wash. The equipment is then saved, sold or shared for future use. People rarely share needles but re-use their needles several times leading to contamination of the equipment.
The researchers confirmed that after the first wash, 45% of the drug remains on the equipment. They confirmed that HIV virus can be transmitted between needles, filters, and cookers. They also found out that the drug has properties promoting survival of the virus.
The team found out that heating the cooker using a cigarette lighter for around 10 seconds destroys the virus. They named that technique ‘cook your wash’. They confirmed heating the cooker had no impact on the drug concentration. Dr Silverman said that if too much of the drug was released, it could result in an overdose. He also said that if the drug was burnt off, users would not accept the intervention.
The team is hoping that this research will be used to inform interventions and understanding in other centers that face HIV epidemics amongst injection drug users. Dr Silverman said that they hope the findings will lead to reduced HIV transmission rates and to a HIV free society.
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Science Daily. (2019, 04 25). Retrieved 05 04, 2019, from www.sciencedaily.com: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190425152440.htm