HIV prevalence and gender differences among new injection-drug-users in Tallinn, Estonia: A persisting problem in a stable high prevalence epidemic

Anneli Uusküla, Mait Raag, Kristina Marsh, Ave Talu, Sigrid Vorobjov, Don Des Jarlais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction New injectors / younger drug users are an important population to target for intervention because they are often at especially high risk of HIV and HCV infection. We examined HIV prevalence and gender differences in HIV prevalence and risk behavior among new injection- drug-users in Tallinn, Estonia. Methods Respondent driven sampling (RDS) interview surveys and HIV testing were conducted in Tallinn in 2009, 2011 and 2013. We classified new injectors as persons who reported their first injection as occurring within three years of the study interview. Recruiting trees of the three individual RDS studies were joined to form one RDS dataset and RDS estimates for prevalence and means were derived. Bootstrap tests were used to compare data from men and women, HIV infected and uninfected. Results Among 110 new injectors (34 women and 76 men) the mean age was 24.5 (SD 7.5) years; 63% reported injecting mainly fentanyl, 34% injecting mainly amphetamine, 36% sharing syringes, 89% were sexually active, and, of these, 88% did not always use condoms in the last 6 months. HIV prevalence was 18% (95%CI 8-28%) (41% (95%CI 19-63%) among female and 7% (95%CI 2-12%) among male new injectors). Based on self-reports, 8.1% of all new injectors (and 22% of female new injectors) were HIV positive before starting to inject drugs. 40% of HIV infected reported receiving antiretroviral therapy. In multivariable analysis, gender (male: OR 0.12, 95% CI 0.03-0.45), main drug injected (fentanyl: OR 6.7, 95% CI 1.3-35.7) and syringe sharing (distributive: OR 0.11, 95% CI 0.02-0.55; and receptive: OR 3.7, 95% CI 1.0-13.5) were associated with the HIV seropositivity. Conclusions New injectors exhibit high-risk behavior and correspondingly high HIV prevalence. Sexual transmission of HIV infection, including before injection initiation, is likely to be a significant contributor to HIV risk among female new injectors. This highlights the need to identify and target new injectors and their partners with gender specific interventions in addition to interventions to reduce initiation into injecting and ensuring provision of ART to HIV positive new injectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0170956
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'HIV prevalence and gender differences among new injection-drug-users in Tallinn, Estonia: A persisting problem in a stable high prevalence epidemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this