Hamilton, Ontario health officials report investigating an increasing trend in the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases, and invasive Group A strep (iGAS) cases among people who inject drugs in Hamilton.
Between September 1, 2018 to May 17, 2019 there were 16 new HIV diagnoses of which 7 persons reported injection drug use and/or shared drug equipment history (44 per cent), and 40 cases of iGAS of which 12 were amongst people who inject drugs (30 per cent). The increase in incidences within the population is higher than it has been historically.
In response to this concerning trend, public health staff and partner agencies are working to connect directly with individuals at highest risk of suffering harm in an effort to prevent the spread of illness and build pathways to treatment. Staff and partners are undertaking activities to build awareness amongst those at risk, recommending and connecting individuals with HIV testing, and promoting safer practices that can reduce risk of transmitting the HIV virus.
To reduce the risk of HIV and iGAS, Public Health recommends:
- Using all new/sterile injection equipment every time.
- Washing hands or use an alcohol-based hand rub prior to preparing drugs
- Cleaning the injection site skin with an alcohol swab before you inject.
- Cooking your drugs (including a wash) every time: heat the solution until it bubbles, then cool before injecting.
- Preparing and use drugs in more hygienic environments; use Hamilton’s Consumption & Treatment Services site at 71 Rebecca St.
- Keeping all wounds (breaks in skin such as a cut or scratch) clean and covered. Watching for signs of infection such as warm skin, sudden or worsening redness, red streaking, swelling, pus, drainage, pain and fever.
- People who inject drugs that have signs of an infected wound should see a health care provider right away.