Sharing syringes and other equipment for drug injection is a well known route of HIV transmission, yet injection drug use contributes to the epidemic’s spread far beyond the circle of those who inject.
People who have sex with an injection drug user also are at risk for infection through the sexual transmission of HIV.
Children born to mothers who contracted HIV through sharing needles or having sex with an IDU may become infected as well.
Since the epidemic began, injection drug use has directly and indirectly accounted for more than one-third of AIDS cases in the United States. This disturbing trend appears to be continuing.
Of the 46,400 new cases of AIDS reported in 1999, 13,833 (30 percent) were IDU-associated.
Racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States are most heavily affected by IDU-associated AIDS.
In 1999, IDUs accounted for 33 percent of all AIDS cases among African American and 35 percent among Hispanic adults and adolescents, compared with 23 percent of all cases among white adults/adolescents.
IDU-associated AIDS accounts for a larger proportion of cases among women than among men.
Since the epidemic began, 58 percent of all AIDS cases among women have been attributed to injection drug use or sex with partners who inject drugs, compared with 31 percent of cases among men.
Noninjection drugs (such as “crack” cocaine) also contribute to the spread of the epidemic when users trade sex for drugs or money, or when they engage in risky sexual behaviors that they might not engage in when sober.
One CDC study of more than 2,000 young adults in three inner-city neighborhoods found that crack smokers were three times more likely to be infected with HIV than non-smokers.