Background: Measuring the incidence of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among people who inject drugs (PWID) is key to track progress towards elimination. We aimed to summarise global data on HIV and primary HCV incidence among PWID and associations with age and sex or gender. Methods: In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we updated an existing database of HIV and HCV incidence studies among PWID by searching MEDLINE, Embase, and PsycINFO, capturing studies published between Jan 1, 2000, and Dec 12, 2022, with no language or study design restrictions. We contacted authors of identified studies for unpublished or updated data. We included studies that estimated incidence by longitudinally re-testing people at risk of infection or by using assays for recent infection. We pooled incidence and relative risk (RR; young [generally defined as ≤25 years] vs older PWID; women vs men) estimates using random-effects meta-analysis and assessed risk of bias with a modified Newcastle–Ottawa scale. This study is registered with PROSPERO, CRD42020220884. Findings: Our updated search identified 9493 publications, of which 211 were eligible for full-text review. An additional 377 full-text records from our existing database and five records identified through cross-referencing were assessed. Including 28 unpublished records, 125 records met the inclusion criteria. We identified 64 estimates of HIV incidence (30 from high-income countries [HICs] and 34 from low-income or middle-income countries [LMICs]) and 66 estimates of HCV incidence (52 from HICs and 14 from LMICs). 41 (64%) of 64 HIV and 42 (64%) of 66 HCV estimates were from single cities rather than being multi-city or nationwide. Estimates were measured over 1987–2021 for HIV and 1992–2021 for HCV. Pooled HIV incidence was 1·7 per 100 person-years (95% CI 1·3–2·3; I2=98·4%) and pooled HCV incidence was 12·1 per 100 person-years (10·0–14·6; I2=97·2%). Young PWID had a greater risk of HIV (RR 1·5, 95% CI 1·2–1·8; I2=66·9%) and HCV (1·5, 1·3–1·8; I2=70·6%) acquisition than older PWID. Women had a greater risk of HIV (RR 1·4, 95% CI 1·1–1·6; I2=55·3%) and HCV (1·2, 1·1–1·3; I2=43·3%) acquisition than men. For both HIV and HCV, the median risk-of-bias score was 6 (IQR 6–7), indicating moderate risk. Interpretation: Although sparse, available HIV and HCV incidence estimates offer insights into global levels of HIV and HCV transmission among PWID. Intensified efforts are needed to keep track of the HIV and HCV epidemics among PWID and to expand access to age-appropriate and gender-appropriate prevention services that serve young PWID and women who inject drugs. Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Fonds de recherche du Québec–Santé, Canadian Network on Hepatitis C, UK National Institute for Health and Care Research, and WHO.
The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Volume 8, June 2023,