Do medical injections spread HIV in Uganda?

A study by Mishra et al (2008) using data from the 2004-5 Uganda HIV/AIDS Sero-Behavioral Survey (UHSBS) suggests medical injections are positively associated with HIV status among Ugandan adults, even after taking into account other HIV risk factors and reverse causality (i.e. HIV positive individuals seek more medical care). Even if iatrogenic transmission is not the primary mode of transmission of HIV today (though Pepin argues it played a pivotal role in the early spread of HIV), this finding is worrisome. The authors conclude:

Our analysis showed a strong positive association between number of medical injections and HIV infection. Receiving frequent medical injections was significantly positively associated with HIV positive serostatus among Ugandan adults. Even after controlling for several potential confounders, and accounting for possible reverse causality from HIV infection to increased use of medical injections, men who received five or more medical injections in the previous 12 months were 2.3 times more likely to be HIV infected, and women 1.5 times more likely to be infected, compared with men and women who received no medical injections.
Our results are consistent with the literature showing a positive association between medical injections and HIV infection (Mann et al. 1986; Deuchert and Brody 2006; Barongo et al. 1992), and provide further evidence that medical injections may increase the risk of HIV infection.

…our finding of consistent and strong positive association between multiple medical injections and HIV infection reinforces the need to strengthen programs to promote injection safety and reduce non-sexual modes of HIV transmission. Medical injection as a potential mode of HIV transmission deserves continued research and programmatic attention. Program priorities for Uganda may include focus on rational use of injections, implementation of the national injection safety guidelines, and further scale up of medical injection safety programs.

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