A new UN initiative is set to curb HIV infection rates among injection drug users at five sites around New Delhi by offering the opiate buprenorphine, taken orally, as a substitute for injection drugs such as heroin.

Hoping to wean drug users off injection drugs altogether, UNAIDS, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will be expanding the program to 15 centers in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

This substitution treatment is part of a larger program in South Asia to prevent the sharing of needles among drug users, encourage safer practices and promote voluntary HIV counseling and testing.