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AIDS & SUBSTANCE ABUSE The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions
Jan 13, 1997

Rick, is there an identified relationship between being a chronic substance abuser, (aside from the issue of contaminated needles) and the incidence of AIDS? are there any empirical studies to suggest that Those who have HIV are more prone to substance abuse than the general population? This would inlude alcohol abuse. are there any studies to show that more people are infected when uder the influence, than when clean and sober? Thanks for considering my question, & for being here in general!

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

It is well known that persons under the influence of alcohol and other recreational drugs (including cocaine, pot, etc.) are at increased risk for HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's). This is because, while under the influence of these drugs, a persons judgment is significantly affected. When a person is drunk or high, they tend to put themselves at greater risk for HIV/STD's. These drugs reduce a persons inhibitions, and people tend to do things they wouldn't normally do. A person is more likely to have sex or share needles with another person, when they are drunk or high. They are also less likely to use condoms, or use them correctly. Persons working with HIV/STD patients commonly see persons being under the influence of these drugs when they put themselves at risk. We therefore recommend that persons with a substance abuse history (including alcoholism) consider getting tested for HIV and other STD's.

In persons who are addicted to various illegal drugs (like crack cocaine), their risk is also increased in another way. When a person is addicted to drugs like cocaine, they will often engage in prostitution as a way to get their illegal drugs (either by direct sex for drugs, or by prostitution for money that will pay for drugs). This is very common. So illegal drugs like cocaine can increase a persons risk for HIV/STD's, both by increased risk-taking while under the influence of this drug, AND by engaging in prostitution in order to get access to the drug.

It's hard to say whether the majority of persons infected with HIV/STD's became infected while under the influence of these drugs. But we can say that substance abuse (including alcohol abuse) significantly increases one's risk of becoming infected with these diseases. When most people think of AIDS and drugs, they commonly think only about intravenous (IV) drugs. It's important to remember that any drug that affects judgement (including cocaine, alcohol, and other recreational drugs) also increases a persons risk of infection as well.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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