Research indicates that there are strong links between drug use and the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among drug users.
HIV is a retrovirus that infects humans but does not present symptoms immediately. The virus attacks the immune system cells called the helper T cells, infecting macrophages and CD4+ T cells. The infection results in the death of the infected cell, reducing cell-mediated immunity as the infection spreads through cells within the body.
The consequence of the c0ndition is a slow degeneration of the bodys immune system so that the person cannot withstand any form of infection. Once an infection or a cancer occurs, the infection is able to thrive because the bodys weakened immune system cannot fight the conditions. Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) occurs when the entire immune system collapses into a life-threatening state.
The three main ways in which the condition is transmitted includes:
- Spread through drug needles and accessories
- Spread through sexual contact when ‘high’
- Users may engage in unprotected sex for drugs
Drug Needles and Other Accessories
Any person who shares a drug needle or accessory, even if cleaned, exposes themselves to a risk of the infection, along with other infections such as hepatitis B and C. Cleaning a needle will not eliminate HIV, because the needle may not be sterile and the virus may remain live for weeks in needles and on drug accessories.
When ‘tripping’, drug users may lose sight of prevention and share a needle or accessories without thought. Sharing needles during drug use, touching hands or items such as tourniquets with infected blood, even a tiny amount not visible to the eye, may result in the spread of an infection from one person to another. All drug paraphernalia should be sterile, otherwise risk of HIV infection remains.
To combat the spread charities and healthcare providers are providing information to drug users on how to prevent infection and transmission. They also provide sterile needles to addicts in an effort to reduce infected numbers.
Sexual Contact When High
When high, drug users may lose inhibitions and engage in unprotected sexual activities. When in a high state, drug users are vulnerable to unsafe sexual contact with others. HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are spread during the exchange of bodily fluids.