When someone mentions "HIV/AIDS" what is the first thing that comes to mind?
—Something you learned about in health class?
—Or saw on TV?
—Or recall a friend who recently got tested for HIV?
—Or a celebrity who raises awareness about HIV/AIDS around the world?
Here's some of the science behind HIV/AIDS that you may not know; HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), a disease of the immune system. Currently, there is no cure, but there is treatment. The good news? HIV/AIDS is preventable, and you can protect yourself by knowing how it is spread and using good judgment. Here are some typical questions that you might have, which research has helped to answer:
- How does someone get HIV? HIV is transmitted when an infected person's blood or other bodily fluid comes in contact with the blood, broken skin, or mucous membranes of someone who is not infected.
- Isn't HIV just a problem in foreign countries like Africa? It's true that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is worse in certain foreign countries, but it is also prevalent in the United States. Every nine and a half minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV, affecting people of every age, race, and creed. Even teens.
- How many teens really have HIV? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 50,000 young people 13 to 24 years old were living with the virus that causes AIDS in 2006, and nearly half didn't even know they had it.
- What does drug abuse have to do with it? You've probably heard that needle-sharing among injection drug users can spread the disease, which is true. However, using drugs and alcohol also puts people at risk. That's because when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their judgment is impaired, and they're more likely to make impulsive decisions they normally wouldn't, like having sex. Since HIV is sexually transmitted, unprotected sex can lead to getting HIV or giving it to someone else. And since so many teens don't even know they have HIV, they can pass it on without even knowing.
So, now what? Make healthy choices and protect yourself and your friends. For more information about HIV/AIDS, check out our friends over at AIDS.gov.
NIDA faces AIDS by continuing to explore the link between HIV/AIDS and drug abuse. Here are some facts we shared in a recent post that bear repeating on World AIDS Day.
- HIV is transmitted when an infected person's blood or other bodily fluid comes in contact with the blood, broken skin, or mucous membranes of someone who is not infected.
- Every nine and a half minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV, affecting people of every age, race, and creed. Even teens.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 50,000 young people 13 to 24 years old were living with the virus that causes AIDS in 2006, and nearly half didn't even know they had it.
- Using drugs and alcohol also puts people at risk for HIV/AIDS. That's because when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their judgment is impaired, and they're more likely to take risks they normally wouldn't, like having sex without protection. Since HIV is sexually transmitted, unprotected sex can lead to getting HIV or giving it to someone else. And since so many teens don't even know they have HIV, they can pass it on without even knowing.
Join NIDA and face AIDS by linking from your MySpace or Facebook profile to our Webisode series. Or, post a NIDA Web banner to your page. We also encourage you to participate in AIDS.gov's World AIDS Day 2009 activities. If you have a blog, please join the 300+ bloggers who are writing about HIV/AIDS today to help spread the message to your friends that there is a link between non-injection drugs and HIV.
SBB attended the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, and wow, what an experience! More than 20,000 people from all over the world came together in one place to discuss the progress being made in preventing and treating HIV and AIDS. Scientists, doctors, community activists, and many other groups all met to push for more support of AIDS programs. SBB was there because NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow was speaking at the conference about the link between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. She said that many people who use drugs contract HIV through (1) sharing needles used to inject drugs (like heroin) and (2) doing risky things when they’re on drugs, like having unprotected sex.
Many creative people were there. They even made art from pill packets used to hold HIV/AIDS medicines, making the point that catching people early in the disease and starting them on antiretroviral medications can greatly lower HIV spread and help prevent the progression to AIDS. Also, “Methadone Man” and “Bupenorphrine Babe” made an appearance—a compelling way to remind people that effective medicines are also available for drug abuse, and that drug abuse treatment can help prevent HIV. It is an urgent problem. In some parts of the world people who are addicted to drugs and have AIDS are just locked up in prison—with no treatment for either their AIDS or for their drug addiction.
To learn about the connection between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS, take a look at NIDA’s Learn the Link campaign at http://hiv.drugabuse.gov/index.html
HIV newly infects about 48,000 Americans every year, but one in five with the disease don’t even know they have it. That’s why today, on National HIV Testing Day, we encourage everyone to get tested—it’s the only way to know for sure if you have HIV. If you do have it, the sooner you find out, the sooner you can get treated.
Drugs + HIV
You probably know how injection drug use (with needles) can lead to HIV infection, but did you know that other kinds of drug use can also increase your odds of getting the disease?
When you use drugs or alcohol, you don’t have as much control over your emotions or your common sense. You could make risky decisions that could lead you into an unsafe sexual situation, putting you at risk for getting HIV or another STD.
Drugs + HIV > Learn the Link helps you understand how any drug use could put you at risk for contracting HIV. You might be interested in a series of Webisodes that tell the story of how unhealthy decisions made at a party change a teen’s life.
Know Your Status Many health centers and clinics offer free or low-cost HIV tests. Go to AIDS.gov to find one near you. And spread the word—when you take the test, you take control.
Every 9 ½ minutes: that's how often the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that someone in the U.S. gets infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In the next 10 minutes, someone will get HIV—and it could be your friend or someone in your family.
By the way, do you remember the word for thought in my earlier post? Comorbidity? Well, HIV is one of the many diseases that is "comorbid with" drug use. NIDA's "Learn the Link" campaign is all about how drug use can expose us to infection from HIV. When someone is using drugs, their decisions may not be well considered. They can have poor judgment and do risky things, like having unprotected sex. And that might mean getting infected with HIV.
According to the CDC, by the end of 2007, 3,230 adolescents 13 to 19 years old were reported to be living with AIDS in the United States and dependent areas (like Puerto Rico). And unfortunately, more people are getting infected all the time.
June 27 was National HIV Testing Day. Did you get tested?
This is a guest SBB post from NIDA intern Giselle.
At NIDA's last Drug Facts Chat Day, Razorfang asked this question:
"can you get viruses from drugs?"
The answer to this might surprise you. Although you can't get viruses directly from drugs, using drugs can increase your chances of catching a virus like HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). In fact, behaviors associated with drug abuse are one of the biggest factors in the spread of HIV across the US.
That's because drugs can mess up your judgment and lead to bad decisions—bad decisions like unsafe sex. And risky sex can lead to more than pregnancy. It can also lead to becoming infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted viruses.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It’s a disease caused by the HIV virus, which breaks down the body’s immune system, or our natural defenses against disease. Without our immune system, our bodies cannot fight off illness.
HIV used to be thought of as a disease that happened only to injection drug users and gay men. That is not true. In fact, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, heterosexual contact between men and women accounted for the second biggest chunk (31%) of all new HIV infections in 2006—more than twice the rate of infections among intravenous drug users. And guess which age group had the most new HIV infections? Young people ages 13-29. In particular, adolescents who have unprotected sex are putting themselves at increased risk of getting HIV.
NIDA research backs this up. It shows that teens like Kim and her friends who drink or use drugs may be putting themselves at a higher risk for contracting HIV, because being high or drunk can lead to having risky sex. To learn more about the link between HIV/AIDS and drug abuse, check out NIDA’s Learn the Link campaign, and get to know the facts on how our decisions, however small they may seem, can majorly affect our health.