(HealthDay News) – Among people who inject drugs, opiate substitution treatment correlates with more than a 50% reduction in the risk of HIV infection, according to research published online Oct 4 in BMJ.

Georgie J MacArthur, from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantify the effect of opiate substitution treatment in relation to HIV transmission among injection drug users. Twelve published studies met the inclusion criteria, and unpublished data were included from three additional studies. All studies examined methadone maintenance treatment.

Based on pooled data from nine of the studies, 819 incident HIV infections were identified during 23,608 person-years of follow-up. The researchers found that, among injection drug users, opiate substitution treatment correlated with a 54% decrease in the risk of HIV infection. Significant heterogeneity was noted between the studies, which could not be accounted for by geographic region, site of recruitment, or incentive provision. Weak evidence was found to support a greater benefit relating to longer duration of treatment exposure to opiate substitution.

“Our study provides strong quantitative evidence of an association between opiate substitution treatment and reduced risk of HIV transmission among people who inject drugs,” the authors write. “These data further support studies showing a range of benefits of opiate substitution treatment.”

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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