In 2019, a research project was conducted to better estimate the number of people who inject drugs (PWID) and HCV prevalence among these persons in Belgium. We started the data collection at local level, in Brussels, in order to end with estimations at national level. The results of this project are important for the further implementation of harm reduction interventions.
In Belgium, PWID are at a high risk of being infected by hepatitis C (HCV) as injecting drug use is the main mode for transmission of HCV in Europe. Estimates about the number of people injecting drugs in Belgium are rare and even less is known about the prevalence of HCV among PWID.
This project uses a method for estimating the number of PWIDs and the prevalence of HCV among PWIDs in Brussels that can also be used to get results at national level. This project increases the knowledge about PWID in order that this information can be used in an effective and efficient drug policy and for the further implementation of harm reduction interventions such as drug consumption rooms (DCR), the provision of sterile needles and syringes and assess whether the goal set by the WHO to reduce HCV with 90% and a 65 % reduction of liver-related mortality by 2030 can be achieved.
A total of 253 respondents participated in the study. The overall unweighted sample average for HCV antibodies is 41.1%. In addition, we estimate 703 people who injected drugs within the last 12 months in Brussels. This means that between 6620 and 7018 people injected drugs within the last 12 months in Belgium. These results show that efforts need to be maximized in order to reach the HCV targets set by WHO for 2030.