Over 2K drug users infected with HIV -- solon

August 19, 2019

A veteran congressman  said a total of 2,199 drug users -- 2,071 males and 128 females -- have been reported infected with the human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus  after sharing contaminated needles.

Citing a Department of Health (DoH) report, Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said nearly all or 99 percent of the reported cases of people who inject drugs (PWIDs) that acquired HIV 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,” said Gullas, a former House Majority Leader.

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

Nubain (Nalbuphine hydrochloride) -- 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 may be prescribed only by physicians specially licensed by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

However, owing to widespread abuse, the DDB eventually reclassified Nubain into a “dangerous drug” in 2011, thus 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 (UNODC), Gullas said PWIDs “have multiple vulnerabilities to HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB) 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 PWIDs in the last five years; PWIDs are 24 times more likely to acquire HIV than adults in the general population; 83 percent of PWIDs and live with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis C; and eight percent of PWIDs have TB.