HIV and Substance Use

The use of mind-altering substances is a contributing factor to the spread of HIV. Additionally, HIV-positive individuals are more prone to engage in substance use and encounter addiction in their lifetime than the general population. UNM Truman Health Services is here to help.

How Substance Use Affects HIV Risk

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Why does substance use plays a significant role in most new HIV infections? Here are the facts about HIV and substance use.

  • Alcohol and drugs impair a person’s judgment, making them more likely to make risky decisions
  • Substance use lowers inhibitions, making a person more likely to engage in unprotected sex
  • Populations that are more vulnerable to HIV infection have higher rates of drug and alcohol use
  • Intravenous drug users are more likely to share needles, which directly transmits HIV
  • Substance use and addiction can contribute to depression and feelings of worthlessness, making a person less likely to care about the risk of HIV
  • Users resist HIV testing because they feel like they are being targeted as a criminal for their drug use

HIV is transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and blood. The most common mode of transmission in the United States is unprotected sex. If you believe you may have been exposed to HIV after engaging in substance use, it is important to get tested for HIV.

Substance Use and Living with HIV

Substance use can be a serious challenge for individuals living with HIV. Because the majority of HIV-positive individuals’ sexual orientation deviates from the norm, many HIV-positive people use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. But, this can cause significant problems for the HIV-positive person, which may include:

  • Treatment interference – substance use can cause someone to forget to take their medications on time, lowering their ability to control HIV
  • Emotional health – substance use can make feelings of depression, anxiety, and other behavioral health problems worse
  • Physical health – substance use weakens your immune system significantly and hasten the progression of HIV in your body

If you are struggling with substance use while living with HIV, UNM Truman Health Services can help. We have support groups, behavioral health support, and can recommend a treatment facility sensitive to the needs of HIV-positive individuals if you feel that it is necessary. We understand that it is not an easy journey to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. We are committed to helping you in any way we can to help you reach your goal of an undetectable viral load.

Contact Us for Substance Use Help

Treatment for substance use problems is available for HIV-positive individuals at UNM Truman Health Services. Contact us today for support.

If you are living with HIV and struggling with substance use, UNM Truman Health Services can help.

Call 505.272.1312 today to schedule an appointment.