HIV/AIDS and Substance Abuse

Challenges and peculiarities in treating dual diagnosis – substance abuse and HIV/AIDS by María de los Angeles Lobos Palacios


Since its very beginning, the HIV/AIDS epidemics has been inextricably intertwined with substance abuse and addiction, resulting in heightened risks of contracting and transmitting HIV, and also of worsening its consequences.

Most people are aware that intravenous drug use and needle-sharing can transmit HIV, however, the role that drug abuse often play is much less known. For example, people under the influence of drugs, such as alcohol, crack cocaine and methamphetamine (meth), are more susceptible to engaging in risky behaviours, such as having unsafe sex with a partner who has HIV.

Moreover, the life conditions of some substance abusers can sometimes lead them to ignore basic hygiene precautions and use other people’s infected paraphernalia. Substance abuse and addiction can also hasten disease progression and negatively affect adherence to treatment.

Because of the link between substance abuse and HIV/AIDS, drug abuse treatment can be an effective way not only to reduce the spread of the disease through HIV risk-reduction counselling, but also to help patients adopt healthier life habits and adhere to HIV-treatment plans.

The following article focuses on these issues and explains, through a case study, the need for a comprehensive approach when implementing treatment programs for drug users living with HIV/AIDS.

Read summary in English and download complete article (in Spanish), by María de los Angeles Lobos Palacios