HIV Rate Still Falling in Injectable Drug Addicts
The availability of clean needles and information about safe practices is thought to have reduced the percentage of HIV transmission through injectable drug use, according to an updated study and press release from the Centers for Disease Control.
This is important because HIV transmission isn’t a closed system. If a heroin addict gets the disease by sharing a needle, they can then transmit it through other means (homosexual or heterosexual sex) to another person. With about 10% of new infections coming from the IV drug using population and spreading from there, this means any reduction is significant.
Confounding factors that the agency says still need to be addressed are the discrepancies between races. IV drug users of African-American decent account for many more cases than whites (2:1), despite the much larger number of white IV addicts compared to black. It is apparent that cultural, economic and environmental (urban vs suburban) differences between the two groups makes one more vulnerable.
If the trend continues, and if inroads can be made into the African-American community, a primary vector of transmission will be impacted. However, male to male sexual contact remains the worst offender for HIV transmission and when drug use is combined with sex (in any gender combination) there can be explosive consequences.
Still, the trend is in the right direction and the CDC data can be used to encourage continued efforts to educate and provide clean needles. One other important aspect that wasn’t mentioned was the importance of a contact point. If addicts accept free supplies, it allows medical personnel a change to further interact with addicts. This is important because without appropriate information about the risks, addicts may simply take on “street lore” – often imprecise or outright false ideas about safe practices and risks.