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Harm Reduct J. 2007 Feb 15;4:8.

Achieving a high coverage--the challenge of controlling HIV spread in heroin users.

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  • 1Stanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


In China, the national plan to open 1000 methadone clinics over a five-year period provides a unique opportunity to assess the impacts of harm reduction in a country with concentrated HIV epidemic amongst heroin users. To track the progress of this public health response, data were collected from the first methadone clinic in Liuzhou, Guangxi, a province with a high HIV prevalence. In the first 15 months of its operation, a cumulative total of 488 heroin users, 86% of which male, had joined the programme. The first dose of methadone was given efficiently at a median of 2 days after registration. Of the 240 heroin users attending the clinic in August 2006, 61% took methadone for four days or more each week. The number of active methadone users, however, leveled off at around 170 after the first two months, despite the availability of capacity to deliver more services. The reasons for this observation are: firstly, the provision of one single service that may not be convenient to all heroin users; and secondly, concerns of heroin users who may feel insecure to come forward. As broad coverage is essential in ultimately reducing HIV risk, a low threshold approach is crucial, which should be supported by the removal of social obstacles and a refinement of the administrative procedures.

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