Needle Exchange Surveillance Initiative: Prevalence of blood-borne viruses and injecting risk behaviours among people who inject drugs attending injecting equipment provision services in Scotland, 2008 to 2020


Public Health Scotland

The Needle Exchange Surveillance Initiative (NESI) has published its latest report using survey data to measure and monitor the prevalence of blood-borne viruses – hepatitis C virus and HIV – and injecting risk behaviours among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Scotland.

The report uses data from Scotland level and NHS board level surveys, and provides information to evaluate and better target interventions aimed at reducing the spread of infection amongst PWID.

Some key findings of the report include:

  • Uptake of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing has steadily increased over time with some of the highest rates reported in 2019–20, with 60% and 52% tested within the previous 12 months respectively.
  • The prevalence of chronic HCV (i.e. active infection) has reduced markedly from 37% in 2015–16 to 19% in 2019–20, contemporaneous with the scale-up of HCV treatment among PWID in community settings. More than half (53%) of participants who would have been eligible for therapy (i.e. with evidence of either current or past chronic infection) reported having been treated for their HCV infection.
  • Despite the reduction in chronic HCV prevalence, the incidence of infection remains high at 12 new HCV cases per 100 person-years in 2019–20.
  • More than half of participants in 2019–20 who were found to have chronic HCV or HIV (based on their anonymous dried blood spot test) reported that they were unaware of their infection.