A study shows that prevalence of HIV among injection drug users (IDUs) ranges between 2.5-4.5 percent in Georgia—similar to neighboring countries Turkey (1.5 percent) and Armenia (6.8 percent), but lower than former Soviet countries like Azerbaijan (10.3 percent) and Ukraine (22.9 percent).

HIV prevalence in Georgia is low, but increasing. In 2004, HIV rate in Tbilisi was 0.4 percent and 2.1 percent in Batumi. Close to 65 percent of IDUs tested in Tbilisi in 2006 were infected with hepatitis C.

Proximity to drug trafficking and distribution routes and exposure to war are known to influence risk of HIV acquisition, according to the study. Georgia is situated on the Silk Route (or North Route) of opiate trafficking from Afghanistan, and there are unresolved conflict areas in the northern parts of Georgia.

According to the World Drug Report, opiate seizures have been declining through the Silk Route, but at the same time, the Georgian Internal Services reports a substantial increase of illegal smuggling of buprenorphine from European countries. All of this re-emphasizes the need for structural HIV prevention interventions, according to the study.

1. Chikovani I, Goguadze K, Ranade S, et al. Prevalence of HIV among injection drug users in Georgia. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2011; 14: 9. (open access)