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Drug and Alcohol Addiction’s High Risk Behaviors Linked to HIV

Addiction and HIV/AIDS are both chronic and progressive diseases when left untreated.  Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s substance abuse has been linked and closely intertwined with HIV/AIDS.  Both addiction and HIV/AIDS are incurable but have been proven to be treatable.  The influence of drug use on acquiring HIV happens at multiple points. For instance, according to the CDC in 2010 injection drug users accounted for 8% of new HIV infections and 16% of those living with HIV/AIDS.  Drug use can directly lead to increased risk of acquiring HIV but also to consider is how using substances will lower inhibitions.  Being intoxicated increases the chance of engaging in risky behavior (like unprotected sex) which in turn can lead to HIV infection.  It is important to understand how these high risk behaviors influence each other, both directly and indirectly, and be aware of their synergistic effects.

The largest percentage of new HIV infections every year comes from the population of men who have sex with men (MSM).  In 2010, the percentage of new infections for MSM was 61% of all new infections.  A study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes discusses the relationship between MSM, drug abuse, and risk for acquiring HIV.  The study looked at HIV-negative MSM and found that drug use can increase the likelihood of engaging in high-risk sex.  High-risk sex in this study was defined as having sex with a partner who is HIV-positive or an unknown status.  The results concluded that HIV-negative men who used methamphetamines episodically, defined as using once a week, were 3.31 times more likely to engage in high-risk sex.  If that drug use was more frequent than once a week the likelihood increased 5.46 fold.  For episodic cocaine users, the risk was 1.86 times more likely and if the cocaine use was more frequent then that risk increased 3.13 fold.  Poly-drug use greatly increases the likelihood of engaging in high-risk sex.  Using two substances increased the likelihood 16.81 fold, and if three or more substances are used the likelihood of high risk sex increased 46.38 fold.  It is clear that drug use has a high correlation to increased risk of acquiring the HIV virus.

If you are using drugs the best way to reduce your chance of getting HIV is to stop using drugs.  If you or a loved one is seeking treatment from addiction or drug abuse please visit our website, for more information.  If you believe you cannot stop using drugs or engaging in high-risk sex at this time, there are prevention programs to help reduce your risk of getting HIV.  For more information about prevention and safe practices visit any of the websites listed below.

It is important to get tested for HIV and know your status, especially when engaging in risky behaviors.  The CDC recommends getting tested at least once a year if you partake in risky behaviors.  Someone may be infected for years and look, act, and feel normal.  The CDC estimates that in the United States 1.2 million people are infected with the HIV virus and of those infected 1 in 5 do not know they have it.  Heterosexual contact accounts for 28% of new HIV infections and therefore should not be overlooked.  Getting tested is quick, easy, and can be done anonymously if one so chooses. If you or a loved one is looking for testing sites and related services please visit to find a location in your area.  For those who have already been diagnosed, TPAN offers a variety of services.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

For further information about HIV/AIDS please visit the following sites: