Drug-abusing individuals, including injecting and non-injecting drug users, are at increased risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and other infectious diseases. These diseases are transmitted by sharing contaminated drug injection equipment and by engaging in risky sexual behavior sometimes associated with drug use. Effective drug abuse treatment is HIV/HCV prevention because it reduces activities that can spread disease, such as sharing injection equipment and engaging in unprotected sexual activity. Counseling that targets a range of HIV/HCV risk behaviors provides an added level of disease prevention.
Drug abuse treatment is HIV and HCV prevention.
Injection drug users who do not enter treatment are up to six times more likely to become infected with HIV than those who enter and remain in treatment. Participation in treatment also presents opportunities for HIV screening and referral to early HIV treatment. In fact, recent research from NIDA’s National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network showed that providing rapid onsite HIV testing in substance abuse treatment facilities increased patients’ likelihood of being tested and of receiving their test results. HIV counseling and testing are key aspects of superior drug abuse treatment programs and should be offered to all individuals entering treatment. Greater availability of inexpensive and unobtrusive rapid HIV tests should increase access to these important aspects of HIV prevention and treatment.