One of the most urgent public health goals of addiction researchers is to curb drug abuse behaviors that contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS, says a special supplement to Drug and Alcohol Dependence sponsored by the NIDA International Program.
Dr. Steven Gust, director of the program and an editor of the supplement, observes that about 5 percent of the world's population aged 15 to 64 abuses drugs and that this behavior is a major factor in the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. Two key routes of HIV infection are through the sharing of needles and other drug injection paraphernalia and high-risk sexual contact, with the latter being one of the fastest-growing routes among women.
NIDA-supported research has shown that preventive interventions and substance abuse treatment can reduce the transmission of HIV in drug-abusing populations. By promoting collaborative research across the globe, the NIDA International Program hopes to improve treatments and outreach programs to reduce high-risk drug use and sexual behaviors, Dr. Gust says.
The supplement compiles studies—several of them funded by NIDA—on drug-related HIV transmission in 16 different localities across the globe. Most of the studies focus on injection drug use, a primary pathway for HIV transmission. Some of the topics covered are:
- The relationships between needle-sharing practices and HIV infection among heroin abusers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania;
- The prevalence of HIV and hepatitis C infections among injection drug users receiving substance abuse treatment in two large hospitals in Barcelona, Spain;
- HIV prevalence among heroin-addicted individuals in Muar, Malaysia;
- Sexual risk behaviors among injection drug users in Shanghai, China;
- The impact of drug abuse on adherence to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) among HIV-positive outpatients in France;
- HIV/AIDS risk factors along the U.S.-Mexico border;
- Regional differences in the characteristics of injection drug users in New South Wales, Australia; and
- The acceptability of audio computer-assisted self-interview among substance abusers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Since 1990, the NIDA International Program has fostered cooperative research and the exchange of scientific information by drug abuse researchers worldwide. The program's objectives include promoting international research and collaboration, communicating and disseminating science-based drug abuse information, and supporting research training and exchange opportunities. More information on the link between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS is available at www.hiv.drugabuse.gov.
Gust, S.W., Strathdee, S.A., and Winstanley, E.L., eds.. Drug Abuse and HIV/AIDS: International Research Lessons and Imperatives. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 82(S1), 2006.