As part of the government's efforts to reduce HIV transmission among intravenous drug users, trial methadone treatment programs for HIV-positive drug users have been launched in two local hospitals, a Department of Health (DOH) official said yesterday.
Methadone is a medication used to treat narcotics addicts.
Under the programs, HIV-positive drug users will only need to pay a registration fee to receive the medication free of charge, said Chien Chun-sheng (簡俊生), acting director-general of the DOH's National Bureau of Controlled Drugs.
The DOH will evaluate the program and consider whether to extend it after a three-month trial period at the Cardinal Tien Hospital in Sindian and the Taoyuan General Hospital, Chien said.
Chien said the bureau has supplied 112 vials of methadone with a total cost of NT$780,000 (US$24,451) to the two institutions, with 40 vials allocated to the Cardinal Tien Hospital and 72 vials to the Taoyuan General Hospital.
He said each patient will need to use 10mg to 12mg of methadone per day during the initial stage of treatment, and 20mg to 60mg per day afterward.
According to the DOH, the fastest increase in the number of new HIV/AIDS cases in Taiwan has been among intravenous drug users, with the number of cases expected to reach 18,000 by 2011.
The Bureau of National Health Insurance has predicted that medical bills for AIDS patients could reach NT$31.89 billion over the next five years if no preventive measures are taken against AIDS.
The DOH is also planning to provide clean needles to drug-using prison inmates in all cities and counties nationwide by July at the latest.