2019 World Aids Day: Any link between Drugs & HIV?

Today is World Aids Day, The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Communities make the difference”.

World AIDS Day offers an important platform to highlight the role of communities at a time when reduced funding and a shrinking space for civil society are putting the sustainability of services and advocacy efforts in jeopardy.

Greater mobilization of communities is urgently required to address the barriers that stop communities delivering services, including restrictions on registration and an absence of social contracting modalities.

The strong advocacy role played by communities is needed more than ever to ensure that AIDS remains on the political agenda, that human rights are respected and that decision-makers and implementers are held accountable.

Of the 37.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2018, 79% received testing, 62% received treatment, and 53% had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with reduced risk of infecting others.

While HIV remains a major global public health issue, most people living with HIV lead long and healthy lives thanks to effective ways to manage the infection. However, people, particularly younger generations should be aware and obtain skills to access HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.

Nearly one-quarter of AIDS cases stem from intravenous drug use, and one in four people living with HIV/AIDS in the period of 2005–2009 reported use of alcohol or drugs to an extent that required treatment.

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 by increasing the likelihood of high-risk sex with infected partners.

The intoxicating effects of many drugs can alter judgment and inhibition and lead people to engage in impulsive and unsafe behaviors. Also, people who are abusing or addicted to drugs may engage in sexually risky behaviors to obtain drugs or money for drugs. Nearly one-quarter of AIDS cases stem from intravenous drug use, and one in four people living with HIV/AIDS in the period of 2005–2009 reported use of alcohol or drugs to an extent that required treatment.

Drug abuse and addiction can also worsen the progression of HIV and its consequences, especially in the brain. For example, in animal studies, methamphetamine increased the amount of HIV virus present in the brain; and in human studies, HIV caused greater neuronal injury and cognitive impairment in methamphetamine abusers compared to non-drug users.

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