Objective To estimate access, activity and coverage of needle and syringe programmes (NSP) in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Methods Two data sets (‘regional’ and ‘high-coverage sites’) were used to estimate NSP provision (availability/number of sites), NSP utilization (syringes distributed/year), needle and syringe distribution (needles/syringes distributed/IDU/year), IDU reached (number/percentage of IDU contacted/year), regular reach (five or more contacts/month) and syringe coverage (percentage of injections/IDU/year administrable with new injecting equipment).
Results Regional data set: results from 213 sites in 25 countries suggested that Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Ukraine had > 10 NSP during 2001/2. Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine had ≥ 10 000 IDU in contact with NSP. Ten countries reached ≥ 10% of the estimated IDU population. The 25 countries distributed ∼ 17 million syringes/needles. Eight countries distributed > 0.5 million syringes/year. Syringe coverage (assuming 400 injections/IDU/year) was < 5% in 19 countries, 5–15% in five and > 15% in Macedonia. Overall syringe coverage was 1.2% and when assuming 700 injections/IDU/year it decreased to 0.7%. Syringe coverage for the IDU population in contact with NSP was ≤ 15% in 10 countries, 15–60% in 11 and > 60% in Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova and Tajikistan. Overall syringe coverage for the population in contact with NSP was 9.8%. High-coverage data set: Soligorsk, Pskov and Sumy's NSP reached 92.3%, 92.2% and 73.3% of their estimated IDU population, respectively (regular reach: 0.2%, 1.8% and 22.7%). The distribution levels were 47.2, 51.7 and 94.2 syringes/IDU/year, respectively.
Conclusion The evidence suggests suboptimal levels of NSP implementation, programme activity and coverage. This paper provides a baseline for development of indicators that could be used to monitor NSP. Strategies to increase coverage that may go beyond NSP are urgently required, as is research into understanding how NSP can contribute to better syringe coverage among IDU.