NSP return on investment

In Australia, the Return On Investment Report 2 (2009) highlights the health, social and financial benefits associated with preventing blood borne virus transmission.

Between 2000 and 2009, the Australian Government invested $243 million in Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs). This resulted in the prevention of an estimated 32,050 new HIV infections and 96,667 cases of hepatitis C. $1.28 billion dollars were saved in direct healthcare costs.

If patient/client costs and productivity gains and losses are included in the analysis, then the net present value of NSPs is $5.85 billion; that is, for every one dollar invested in NSPs, $27 is returned in cost savings.

The report states:

If NSPs were to decrease in size and number, then relatively large increases in both HIV and hepatitis C could be expected with associated losses of health and life and reduced returns on investment. Significant public health benefits can be attained with further expansion of sterile injecting equipment distribution.

Department of Health and Ageing  Return on Investment 2 mini-site

Return on Investment 2: Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of needle and syringe programs in Australia (large file)

Anex Return on Investment Factsheet


Syringe programs return $4 for every $1 invested

Distributing syringes to people who inject drugs has prevented an estimated 32,000 HIV infections and 100,000 hepatitis C infections across Australia in the past 10 years.

Anex argues that the national Return on Investment 2 study has shown that needle and syringe programs (NSP) have saved Australia $1.28 billion in health costs in the past decade.

Value of NSP programs in Australia

Region Av. syringes per year Healthcare savings
NSW 9,650,919 $513 million
Victoria 8,165,050 $224 million
South Australia 3,156,928 $93 million
Western Australia 3,655,328 $124 million
Queensland 6,275,248 $253 million
ACT 498,952 $11.5 million
Northern Territory 382,286 $4.2 million
Tasmania 801,205 $21 million


The report shows that only 0.1 per cent of people who inject drugs in Australia are HIV positive. It is possible that, without the availability of NSPs in Australia, this number could be as high as 14 per cent.

On average, total government funding for NSP is $27 million annually. The Return on Investment Report 2 suggests that this has saved taxpayers more than $1.3 billion since 2000.

Anex is calling for further expansion of NSP programs to increase coverage of this valuable service. There is still an urgent need to ensure people who inject have good access to NSP, as research shows that around 50 per cent of illicit drug injections were with a sterile needle.