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HIV and Drug Abuse

HIV from Injection Drug Use

HIV from injection drug use (PWID) previously decreased 48% from 2008 to 2014 however saw an increase in 2015. Since then the downward trend returned, yet there are still thousands who have HIV from IDU.

Statistic Breakdown

In 2017, PWID accounted for 9% (3,641) of the 38,739 HIV diagnoses in the US. 2,389 were attributed to IDU, while 1,252 were attributed to MSM.

72% of those diagnoses were men and 28% were women.

29% were black, 45% were white, and 22% were Latino.

2018 Stats

In 2018 the CDC’s National HIV Behavioral Surveillance (NHBS) system conducted interviews and HIV testing of 11,437 PWID (persons who inject drugs). Of those tested, 6% tested positive for HIV, 32% shared syringes, of the men 70% had MSM anal sex without a condom, and of the women 36% had sex in exchange for money or drugs. Only 55% of them had been tested for HIV.

13 million people inject drugs, and 1.7 million of them are living with HIV in the world. That accounts for 10% of people living HIV globally and 30% of those living with HIV outside of Africa.


  • 33,000 opioid-related deaths in the US in 2015


  • Heroin use has gone up as other opioid use has gone down suggesting that prescription drug users are shifting to heroin


  • Heroin caused 1,960 deaths in 1999 compared to 10,574 in 2014 and opioid deaths went from 4,030 to 18,893 in the same 15 years

  • Opioid prescriptions tripled over the 20 years between 1991 to 2011 from 76 million to 219 million. Mexican heroin flooded the market and was cheaper, and easier to obtain so people flocked to it

  • 12 states had more opioid prescriptions than adults in 2012 now there is a stronger effort to hold the drug companies accountable

Opioids have been increasingly prescribed, particularly in the South and Midwest where there can be as many as 1.5 opioid prescriptions per person. This has direct correlations to heroin use as prescription users will often make the switch to heroin when their prescription gets discontinued.

The problem is further complicated because these areas with high opioid usage generally don’t have advanced HIV prevention programs available, and needle exchange programs are less prevalent.

Statistics on Opioids


  • Drug use can also increase the risk of contracting infections. HIV and hepatitis C (a serious liver disease) can occur from sharing injection equipment or from unsafe practices such as condom-less sex. Infection of the heart and its valves (endocarditis) and skin infection (cellulitis) can occur after exposure to bacteria by injection drug use.

    • Addiction and HIV/AIDs are intertwined epidemics.


  • Nevirapine side effects—Studies have linked the HIV medicine nevirapine (also called Viramune or NVP) to a higher risk of rashes and liver problems for women with higher CD4 counts.

  • Ritonavir side effects—The HIV medicine ritonavir (also called Norvir or RTV) may cause more nausea and vomiting in women. It is sometimes prescribed to help other HIV medicines work better.

  • Health problems that can be linked to drug abuse are long and troublesome. Adding addiction on top of that while undergoing treatment can cause harm to one's mental health.

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