The Harrowing Statistics
- Worldwide, up to 40% of injections are given with syringes and needles reused without sterilization, and in some countries this proportion is as high as 70%.
- Other unsafe practices, such as poor collection and disposal of dirty injection equipment, expose health care workers and the community to the risk of needle stick injuries.
- Studies suggest that each year unsafe injections cause an estimated 1.3 million early deaths, a loss of 26 million years of life, and an annual burden of US$535 million in direct medical costs.
- Unsafe injection practices are a powerful engine to transmit blood-borne pathogens, including hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is highly infectious and causes the highest number of infections. In developing and transitional countries, 21.7 million people become infected each year, representing 33% of new HBV infections worldwide.
- Unsafe injections are the most common cause of Hepatitis C (HCV) infection in developing and transitional countries, causing 2 million new infections each year and accounting for 42% of cases.
- Globally, nearly 2% of all new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections are caused by unsafe injections. In South Asia, up to 9% of new cases may be caused in this way.
- HBV, HCV, and HIV cause chronic infections that lead to disease, disability, and death a number of years after the unsafe injection.
infected with Hepatitis B from an unsafe injection.
infected with Hepatitis C from an unsafe injection.
infected with HIV from an unsafe injection.
Safe and appropriate use of injections can be achieved by adopting a three part strategy:
- Changing behavior of health care workers and patients. Thirty years into the HIV pandemic, knowledge of HIV among patients and health care workers in some countries has driven consumer demand for safe injection equipment and irreversibly improved injection practices. With growing knowledge of HCV and HBV, similar patterns of consumer demand for safe injections should emerge. HIV prevention programs can be expanded to include injection safety components.
- Ensuring availability of equipment and supplies. Simply increasing the availability of safe injection equipment can stimulate demand and improve practices. Because the cost of safe disposable syringes is low (less than 5 US cents per unit) when compared to the fee paid for receiving an injection (50 US cents on average), patients are usually willing to pay a little extra for safety once they personalize the risks.
- Managing waste safely and appropriately. As waste disposal is frequently not an integral part of health planning, unsafe waste management is common. However, when it is appropriately planned, significant results ensue. National health care waste management strategies require a national policy to manage health care waste, a comprehensive system for implementation, improved awareness and training of health workers at all levels, as well as the selection of appropriate options for the local solutions.
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