A new study has found that 30 percent of injection drug users in Pakistan are paid to donate blood, raising concerns over the spread of hepatitis B and C and other blood-borne diseases.
In their study reported in the June issue of the Journal of Urban Health, Johns Hopkins researchers found that injection drug users in three Pakistani cities were twice as likely to donate blood as non-injectors.
The researchers studied 608 drug users in the Pakistani cities of Rawalpindi, Quetta and Peshawar. Of the study participants who injected drugs, half reported sharing needles with others.
According to the researchers, heroin is easily available in Pakistan due to the country's proximity to Afghanistan, one of the world's leading producers of opium. Liquid opiates are also readily available at Pakistanti pharmacies without a prescription.
According to the researchers, a high prevalence of needle sharing, an association of injection drug use and blood donation and low levels of HIV/AIDS awareness are an alarming combination.
To prevent the spread of blood-borne infections in Pakistan, the researchers suggest needle exchange programs, HIV testing and educational counseling for drug users.
In addition to calling for an end to paid blood donation, the researchers urged that Pakistani blood clinics screen donations for blood-borne infections to help safeguard the blood supply.
Other sources: Johns Hopkins