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Long, Jean (2007) New data on the incidence of HIV. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 23, Autumn 2007, p. 15.

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HIV (subsequently known as HIV1) was identified in 1981 and HIV2 was identified in 1986. The virus attaches itself to the CD4 particle of the T-lymphocytes. These T-lymphocytes co-ordinate the body’s immune response. HIV may lead to a condition known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This condition generally occurs when the CD4 count is below 200 per millilitre and is characterised by the appearance of opportunistic infections. Such infections take advantage of a weakened immune system. The HIV virus is found in all body fluids and is transmitted via sexual intercourse (both heterosexual and homosexual), mother to foetus and baby, infected blood and blood products and procedures with unsterile needles, syringes and skin-piercing instruments. Best evidence available to date indicates that once an individual is infected he or she remains infected for life. 

Voluntary linked testing for antibodies to HIV has been available in Ireland since 1985. According to the most recent report of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), at the end of 2006 there were 4,419 diagnosed HIV cases in Ireland, of which 1,327 (30%) were probably infected through injecting drug use.1 

Figure 1 [See PDF document] presents the number of new cases of HIV among injecting drug users, by year of diagnosis, reported in Ireland; data from 1982 to 1985 were excluded from the figure as these four years were combined in the source records. Figure 1 is based on data reported to the Department of Health and Children, the National Disease Surveillance Centre and its successor, the HPSC.2 There was a fall in the number of HIV cases among injecting drug users between 1994 and 1998, with about 20 cases per year compared to about 50 cases each year in the preceding six years. In 1999, there was a sharp increase in the number of cases among injecting drug users, which continued into 2000, with 69 and 83 new cases respectively. Between 2001 and 2003 there was a decline in the number of new injector cases (38, 50 and 49 respectively) when compared to 2000 but the number was higher than in 1998. In 2004, once again, there was an increase (to 71 cases) in the number infected through injecting drug use compared to the preceding three years. In 2006 there were 57 cases infected through injecting drug use. It was difficult to interpret the trend due to the relatively small numbers diagnosed each year, so a smoother curve (red plot line in Figure 1) was calculated using a rolling centred three-year average. This curve presents an increase in the annual number of HIV cases in 1999; this higher number of cases was sustained between 2000 and 2006. This indicates a true increase in the number of cases. 

Of the 57 new HIV cases among injecting drug users reported to the HPSC in 2006, 41 were male and 16 were female and the average age was 32 years. Of the 39 cases for whom place of residence was known, 37 lived in the HSE Eastern Region. 

This HPSC report confirms the need, emphasised by the authors of the report on the 2004 data, to continue to promote the use of harm reduction measures among injecting drug users.


1.    Health Protection Surveillance Centre (2007) Newly diagnosed HIV infections in Ireland: quarters 3 & 4 2006, and 2006 annual summary. Dublin: Health Service Executive.

2.    Long J (2006) Blood-borne viral infections among injecting drug users in Ireland, 1995 to 2005. Overview 4. Dublin: Health Research Board.


Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Issue Title
Issue 23, Autumn 2007
July 2007
Page Range
p. 15
Health Research Board
Issue 23, Autumn 2007
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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