Injecting Drug Users in Asia: Data Collection Challenges
Biological and behavioral surveillance data about injecting drug users may prove to be very helpful in HIV prevention. First, this data may help in identifying the percentage proportion of individuals infected by HIV through needles. This might help the government to plan a preventive program geared to these individuals that may range from provision of needles to education about the harm of drugs and how HIV spreads through injections.
Secondly, this data might also be very useful in determining the behavior of most drug users in this country. Apart from spreading HIV through needles, drug users have fewer inhibitions and usually engage in risky sexual conduct. This might open other avenues of contracting HIV. Data from injecting drug users can help the researcher in identifying the risk age group that is likely to contract HIV through this route. By identifying the age group that has the most injecting drug users, the government and other organizations might focus their educational surveys and another preventive program towards enlightening this group. If people are aware of the risk of HIV and all the misconceptions about HIV are cleared, the prevalence of HIV in Asia might decrease over time.
One approach to collecting data about IDUs is through interviewing recovering drug users that are in treatment centers. These recovering addicts might provide good information on how they started using drugs, common behaviors and acts they engaged in while under the influence of drugs, and the precautions, if any, that they took while injecting drugs into their bodies. The second method is through questionnaires and interviewing people arriving at the HIV treatment center. This will help in identifying those individuals who contracted the disease from sexual contact and those who contracted it through injections.
There are, however, several barriers to collecting accurate data about this group. First, most drug users engage in so many risky behaviors that it is almost impossible to determine how they contracted HIV. Injecting drug users usually have lower inhibitions and may engage in risky behavior that may pose several problems in ascertaining the exact means of infection. Another barrier is that the use of drugs is illegal in many countries; hence most drug users hide and are usually very apprehensive about sharing their lives or detail pertaining to their drug use. Most of the drug users are also pathological liars who are driven by the need to use drugs. Getting accurate information from these individuals may be very difficult. Apart from this, these individuals may be dangerous and pose a risk to the researcher or observer.