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Objective: To provide global estimates of the prevalence of injecting drug use (IDU) and HIV prevalence among IDU, in particular to provide estimates for developing and transitional countries.

Methods: Collation and review of existing estimates of IDU prevalence and HIV prevalence from published and unpublished documents for the period 1998-2003. The strength of evidence for the information was assessed based on the source and type of study.

Results: Estimates of IDU prevalence were available for 130 countries. The number of IDU worldwide was estimated as approximately 13.2 million. Over ten million (78%) live in developing and transitional countries (Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 3.1 million; South and South-east Asia, 3.3 million; East-Asia and Pacific, 2.3 million). Estimates of HIV prevalence were available for 78 countries. HIV prevalence among IDU of over 20% was reported for at least one site in 25 countries and territories: Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia and Montenegro, Spain, Libya, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Viet Nam, China, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, USA and Canada.

Conclusions: These findings update previous assessments of the number of countries with IDU and HIV-infected IDU, and the previous quantitative global estimates of the prevalence of IDU. However, gaps remain in the information and the strength of the evidence often was weak.

(C) 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.