Facing up to an epidemic: drug policy in Canada

Canada is facing a public health crisis with respect to injection drug use. Rates of blood borne infections among people who inject drugs increased during the 1990s at an alarming rate. By 1996, almost half of all new HIV diagnoses were in people who inject drugs. Since 1997, the proportion of new HIV infections annually that are attributable to people who inject drugs has decreased slightly; by 1999, the number had dropped to 26 percent. However, HIV and AIDS infection remain a major problem. Overall, the number of adult AIDS cases related to injection drug use has increased to 21.7 percent of all new reported AIDS diagnoses in 2001, up from 8.3 percent of new AIDS cases in 1995. As noted by Health Canada, the “absolute number of infections in this group is still unacceptably high.”

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