Injecting drug use driving the HIV epidemic is currently a major global public health concern. However, the early epidemic among injecting drug users (IDUs), more than three decades ago, was only concentrated in few places. The HIV epidemic among the IDUs in New York, USA; Edinburgh, Scotland, UK; and northern Italy provides examples of where the recorded prevalence exceeded 50% within a very short period of time. This brief review highlights historical perspectives of HIV transmission risk among IDUs during the early stages of the epidemic. Salient features and related experiences during this period might provide valuable insights for current HIV prevention. Our overview of the selected locations reemphasizes the importance of early prevention. The discussion also introduces to new researchers the early situation associated with the HIV epidemic in IDUs and highlights some crucial components need to be included during current HIV prevention activities.
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