Youth against Alcoholism and Drug Dependancy


How Does Drug Abuse Impact
the HIV/AIDS Epidemic?

Drug abuse and addiction have been inextricably linked with HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. While intravenous drug use is well known in this regard, less recognized is the role that drug abuse plays more generally in the spread of HIV— the virus that causes AIDS—by increasing the likelihood of high risk sex with infected partners.1 This is because of the addictive and intoxicating effects of many drugs, which can alter judgment and inhibition and lead people to engage in impulsive and unsafe behaviors.

Drug abuse and addiction can also worsen the progression of HIV and its consequences, especially in the brain. In animal studies, methamphetamine increased HIV viral replication;
2 in human methamphetamine abusers, HIV caused greater neuronal injury and cognitive impairment compared with non drug users.3,4

Who Is At Risk for HIV Infection and how Does
HIV Become AIDS?

Anyone is vulnerable to contracting HIV. And while injecting drug users (IDUs) are still at great risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol is at heightened risk. This includes IDUs who share contaminated syringes or injection paraphernalia, as well as anyone who engages in unsafe sex (e.g., multiple partners, unprotected sex) or "transactional" sex (e.g., trading sex for drugs or money) that could expose them to infection.

A person infected with HIV has a virus that lives and multiplies primarily in the white blood cells, which are part of the immune system. An infected person may look and feel fine for many years and may not even be aware of the infection. However, as the immune system weakens, the individual becomes more vulnerable to illnesses and common infections. Over time, the untreated HIV patient is likely to succumb to multiple, concurrent illnesses and develop AIDS. Recent developments have led to better treatments for HIV infection, the most effective being a strategy known as highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART).