Glasgow suffers Britain's worst HIV epidemic in over 30 years

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

There is a HIV outbreak on the streets of Glasgow. It is on a scale not seen anywhere in Britain since the 1980s, and it's being driven by people who are injecting drugs and sharing needles.

For context, about 1% of people who inject drugs in Glasgow had HIV just seven years ago. Now it's more than 10%.

The most comprehensive report into this epidemic will be published by the Lancet HIV journal on Wednesday.

  • Rab says he's shared needles before because he needed 'a fix' but he does not have HIV

The author, Dr Andrew McAuley from Glasgow Caledonian University, says the city provided fertile ground for an outbreak.

"It is a perfect storm - two of the city's busiest needle exchanges have closed in the last few years," he told ITV News.

"There is very strong evidence to suggest that needle and syringe provision is very effective in the prevention of blood-borne viruses such as HIV.

"Closure of these services at the time of an outbreak is a very challenging situation.

"The situation we are now seeing in Glasgow is unlike anything we've seen in the UK for over 30 years. Glasgow's HIV situation is certainly an outlier."

  • Dr Andrew McAuley

There is another factor in Glasgow.

The city's streets have been flooded with cheap, high grade cocaine which is being injected.

Whereas heroin users would crave a fix a couple of times a day, cocaine makes users want to inject more frequently - every couple of hours.

  • Graham says he sees rusty needles in the street that people then use to inject because needle exchanges have shut down but he does not have HIV

This means the city's drug users have been using more needles at a time when there's fewer places to get a clean injecting kit. It's led to an increase in needle sharing - something that is now commonplace in Glasgow.

We showed our filming to the Scottish Government’s Public Health Minister, Joe FitzPatrick.

He said: "This is an area that we have to work in partnership with other service providers and it's obviously disappointing when a service is removed. We have to look at how we continue to provide that support."

Glasgow’s NHS has now created a mobile needle exchange to reach addicts on the streets, but the virus is still spreading.

Britain hasn’t seen an epidemic like this since the 1980s, and it is not being contained.