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Improved data collection required for blood-borne viruses

The Drug-Related Blood-Borne Viruses in Ireland 2018 report, published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), stated that PWID were at greatest risk of infection from BBV. In Ireland, over three-quarters of diagnosed cases of hepatitis C are in PWID.

Data is available from pharmacy-based needle exchange programmes outside Dublin but there are knowledge gaps in respect of needle exchange services in the capital, according to the report. 

“It is not currently possible to assess if sufficient needle/syringe packs are distributed to meet the needs of service users or to monitor progress towards the targets set in the WHO Euro Action Plan for Hepatitis,” noted the report.

Significant information deficiencies exist due to the lack of computerisation of drug treatment services, making it difficult to monitor uptake of BBV screening and test results, as well as hepatitis B vaccine uptake.

“The lack of computerisation in most addiction treatment clinics means that data on BBV screening and results, and hepatitis B vaccination uptake, cannot be routinely reported,” according to the report. 

“Aside from monitoring adherence to clinical guidelines, a computerised system would provide important data on the incidence and prevalence of BBVs in PWID in Ireland and would facilitate early detection of outbreaks or unusual events.

“There are plans to have all sites computerised and for the same system to be used by all relevant services. This, in conjunction with unique health identifiers, will facilitate linkage of the addiction services.”

The report referred to a relatively high prevalence of hepatitis C in older opioid users, “but a declining incidence of opioid use, injecting and hepatitis C.”

The number of newly-diagnosed cases of HIV in PWID had also declined and the incidence and prevalence of hepatitis B was low.

A national prevalence study of BBVs in opioid substitution treatment settings is planned for 2018/2019.

Although there were information gaps, the focus on “harm reduction and drug treatment appears to be working”, the report noted.

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