Injection Drug Use
Allen Kwabena Frimpong, Capacity Building Advisor, Harm Reduction Coalition, New York
According to the CDC, the number of new HIV infections among the sub-populations most affected are lowest among black males and females who inject drugs. Two factors that contribute to these relatively low numbers are: One, our white counterparts use drugs more than we do -- despite the fact that we disproportionately carry the health, social and economic costs associated with the harms from drug use and punitive drug policies.Show More
Two, the advent of syringe exchange programs has also driven down the number of new infections among African Americans -- though we know anecdotally, and through research, that there are barriers to African Americans accessing syringe exchange programs given law enforcement practices that racially profile and target them.
We know incarceration is a driver of HIV. We know lack of employment and education drives people to participate in "street economies," and we know that participation in these economies has harmful consequences in our communities and continues a cycle that does not encourage people to be empowered enough to protect themselves and their loved ones against HIV. It's for these reasons that a harm reduction approach, and a drug policy agenda that ends the criminalization of people who use drugs, will be vital in ensuring that African-American communities don't bear the brunt of the health, social and economic costs associated with harms like HIV infection.