Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Beer causes AIDS

The anti-drug anti-HIV campaign has been around for a while. The newest version comes now from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in a new public service announcement and prevention campaign announced for World AIDS Day. Targeting young people and reflecting this new age of text messaging, the NIDA campaign comes with set of educational materials on a new web page with plenty of links to additional, if somewhat older, materials.

One of those "old" items (2004) makes the startling assertion that:

Behavior associated with drug abuse is now the single largest factor in the spread of HIV infection in the United States. [emphasis added]

Although we've never made the claim in quite those extreme terms, we've often pointed out to Texas legislators that substance use/abuse is a major factor in the increase of HIV infections among women due either to their own or their partner's use/abuse. When we talk about needle exchange, we point out that the harm reduction comes not only to the user but to sexual partners and family members. As drug use/abuse and HIV go hand in hand, harm reduction strategies pay off for the whole community.

The NIDA fact sheet makes the link be tween use/abuse and HIV quite clear:

Using or sharing unsterile needles, cotton swabs, rinse water, and cookers, such as when injecting heroin, cocaine, or other drugs, leaves a drug abuser vulnerable to contracting or transmitting HIV. Another way people may be at risk for contracting HIV is simply by using drugs of abuse, regardless of whether a needle and syringe are involved. Research sponsored by NIDA and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has shown that drug and alcohol use can interfere with judgment about sexual (and other) behavior and thereby affect the likelihood of engaging in unplanned and unprotected sex. This increases the risk for contracting HIV from infected sex partners. [emphasis added]

This reminds me of the exchange that I had with a young man several years ago, who said: "You're not telling me that beer causes AIDS , are you?" "No," I replied, "but too much beer can make you careless enough to have unprotected sex and place yourself at risk for AIDS." Or words to that effect.

NIDA's campaign doesn't say that "Beer causes AIDS," but it gets to the same point with "Send the Msg."

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