HIV / Aids

The Link between Substance Abuse and HIV Transmission

  • Drug use is a major factor in the spread of HIV infection. Shared equipment for injecting drugs can carry HIV and hepatitis. Drug use is generally linked with unsafe sexual activity.
  • Infected blood can be drawn up into a syringe and then get injected along with the drug by the next user of the syringe. This is the easiest way to transmit HIV during drug use because infected blood goes directly into someone’s bloodstream.
  • For a lot of people, drugs and sex go together. Drug users might trade sex for drugs or for money to buy drugs. Some people connect having unsafe sex with their drug use.
  • Drug use, including methamphetamine or alcohol, increases the chance that people will not protect themselves during sexual activity. Someone who is trading sex for drugs might find it difficult to set limits on what they are willing to do. Drug use can reduce a person’s commitment to use condoms and practice safer sex.
  • Drug use can lead to missed doses of ARVs. This increases the chances of treatment failure and resistance to medications.
  • Mixing recreational drugs and ARVs can be dangerous. Drug interactions can cause serious side effects or dangerous overdoses.
  • The lives of WSW are generally under researched and we don’t have a clear and accurate picture of substance abuse in our communities. What we do know anecdotally is that some WSW do engage in recreational drugs and some women may also have addiction issues. We need to understand what the implications of this are for HIV and AIDS.