Experts warn over HIV risk for steroid users

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MORE must be done to help the rising tide of people who are injecting themselves with steroids, health experts warn today.

Reports suggest the number of people who use steroids and other performance or image enhancing drugs is “rapidly increasing”, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said.

It said outreach programmes should be set up in gyms to reach drug users and that needle and syringe programmes should also make sure users have sterile equipment to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses.

Meanwhile, it said local health bodies need to increase the proportion tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C and other viruses.

Experts say people using these drugs see themselves as “fit and healthy” rather than having a drug problem despite the fact they are at a heightened risk of HIV and hepatitis.

An estimated 59,000 people aged 16 to 59 use anabolic steroids in England and Wales but numbers are likely to be higher.

David Rourke, of the Arundel Street Project, a needle and syringe programme in Sheffield, said it was dealing with seven new steroid-using clients a week.

“In Sheffield we are lucky to have a special programme for those who use steroids to access information and support but I know of some areas where there is nothing,” he said.

“People who inject steroids are potentially using them without the correct education or the correct equipment and this can lead to more and more people injecting unsafely, which can put not just their own life, but the lives of those around them, at risk.

“This guideline will make sure that services across the country are at the high standard they should be.”

Prof Mike Kelly, director of Nice’s Centre for Public Health, added: “Needle and syringe programmes have been a huge success story in the UK, they are credited with helping stem the Aids epidemic in the ‘80s and ‘90s. However, we are now seeing a completely different group of people injecting drugs. They do not see themselves as ‘drug addicts’; quite the contrary, they consider themselves to be fit and healthy people who take pride in their appearance.”