Drug use is a major concern all around the world, and although we oft talk about the risks of substance abuse on one’s body, finances and relationships, there’s a topic that doesn’t get discussed as often: HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, 6% of HIV diagnoses were attributed to injection drug use and they estimate that if these rates continue, 1 in 23 women who inject drugs and 1 in 36 men who inject drugs will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and it can lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) if not treated early on. HIV is a lifelong condition that attacks our body’s natural immune system making us more susceptible to cancer, infections and even death.
Much of what HIV/AIDS has been centered on is through unprotected sex, but there is a huge risk among those who inject drugs as well. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) emphasizes that using drugs can worsen HIV symptoms if a person already has it – thus making their brain and body more at risk for greater nerve cell injury and difficulties with thinking, learning and remembering. Avert, a website that provides global information and education on HIV and AIDS, states that those who use drugs are 22 times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS.
If this contraction is so dangerous and deadly, why don’t people who use drugs simply avoid sharing needles? Many people are unaware that they even have the virus and are uneducated about how likely they are to contract the virus from drug injecting. Furthermore, some instances make it more difficult for people to ensure sanitary precautions are taken with drug use. For example, one person told Avert, “When we [inject] drugs, we need to be quick. Police might come at any time. For that reason…we don’t mind sharing with others.”
Safe injection sites, increased access to treatment and more public information is being established in the United States to help combat some of the HIV/AIDS issue, but there is still a long way to go. Protect yourself and what’s even better – seek help when it’s needed. You are not alone and there are people here ready to help you.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.
Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.