Intravenous Drug Users in Tbilisi | Survey Data

As part of a four part series, Save the Children in cooperation with a host of other organizations have released reports from survey data they have collected from Female Sex Workers (FSWs) and Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs). All of the surveys are funded by USAID. This entry reviews the Tbilisi report on IDUs. If you are interested in the other reports, please contact us.

It has been a conundrum for many why the number of HIV infected is not higher in Georgia (Georgia is low prevalence country, less than 5%, as defined by UNAIDS, but data is weak, since surveillance is bad), since it is estimated that there are 250,000-280,000 IDUs in Georgia, which accounts for around 5% of the total population — an astounding figure. To understand the dynamics of IDUs and its relation to HIV infection other diseases a Behavioral Surveillance Survey (BSS) has been carried out three times — in 2002, 2004 and 2006. The survey methodology uses a referral method, since sampling IDUs is no easy task. While providing good information, it does no present a representative sample of these people and when discussing the data, one must keep in mind various biases in the data, which may be present. However, the data points to trends that are generally positive, and it may be that Georgia will be able avoid a much larger HIV crisis.

So, what did the 2006 data show? Similar to 2004, the report found stability in the type of drugs injected. Most IDUs in the sample report injecting Subutex and also having started to use Antihistamines. In 2002, however, most users reported using heroin.

Also, in terms of good news, 96% of those who reported having paid sex (30% of the male sample — about the same as in 2004), reported using a condom. The number who pay for sex and use a condom is substantially up from 2004, which hopefully indicates and increase in awareness of the dangers of unprotected sex. However, males users report not using condoms with their stable sex partner. In other good news, knowledge about HIV among drug users is also rising, at least in the sample, however remains low overall. Only 37% of the sample could correctly identify the six mechanisms of transmitting HIV. However, only 15% of the sample in 2002 could do so.

On the bad news front, respondents who inject seems to be getting younger and younger. There was a 10% jump from 2002 to 2006 in the those who started injecting between 15 and 19 years old.

Again, if you are interested in the whole report, please get in touch.