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In the past blog we talked about hepatitis C and how drug use plays a role in the spread of Hep C.

The other viral infection, in addition to Hep C, that has a higher chance of being passed on with drug use is HIV or the AIDS virus. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV virus infects the body's immune cells which are called CD4 cells or T cells. T cells fight infections in the body and are directly attacked by HIV virus in the immune system of an infected person. As T cells are destroyed and their numbers get lower, the ability of the body to fight off infections and disease decreases to the point that finally the affected person dies from a multitude of diseases.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of an HIV infection. When the body is unable to fend off disease and is suffering from one or more infections with a T cell count of less than 200, the patient is diagnosed with AIDS.

Therefore being infected with HIV doesn't automatically mean that it will progress to AIDS.

Since HIV spreads through blood or body fluids, drug use and alcohol abuse increase the risk of getting AIDS. This happens in three ways. One way is through sharing needles or other drug equipment by drug users and the other way is through unprotected intimate contacts due to impaired judgement resulting from the drug or alcohol use. It is proven that being drunk or high affects your ability to make safe choices and lowers your inhibitions, leading you to take risks that normally you are less likely to take when sober, such as having sex without a condom or sex with multiple partners.

Transactional sex (trading sex for drugs or money) is another reason for increased risk of getting HIV among drug users.

The third way that HIV virus spreads is through infected pregnant women who pass the virus to their child during pregnancy, or infected mothers who infect their infant through the breast milk.

However, injection drug use is the one of the primary causes of HIV spread in the United States, and it is responsible for approximately 10% of HIV cases annually.

The fact is that anyone who uses drugs is at a higher risk for HIV infection and that makes it imperative for that group to seek HIV testing. There are many resources that are offer help and resources to those concern with this virus and the disease of AIDS. The government site offers addresses of the nearest HIV testing centers to those interested in taking the HIV test, in addition to support and prevention tips to people who have HIV or are at a higher risk of getting the virus.

If you already have HIV, drinking alcohol or taking other drugs can affect your immune system and may speed up the progression of the disease. Drinking or taking drugs also can affect your HIV treatment adherence. Getting treatment can save your life as well as many other lives that come in contact with you. Please do the responsible thing and seek help for treatment.