What is the connection between alcohol, other drugs, and HIV?

There are many drugs that people use or abuse recreationally. Some are legal, others illegal. The most common one is alcohol (in beer, wine, or liquor). Others include marijuana (pot), cocaine (including crack), heroin, amphetamines (speed), and ecstasy. Drugs can increase someone’s risk of getting HIV and can cause special problems for people who are already HIV infected.

Role of drugs in HIV transmission

Alcohol and drugs can alter people’s judgment. They may take risks that might expose them to HIV that they would not take when sober.

Sharing needles to inject drugs (such as heroin, speed, or anabolic steroids) is VERY dangerous and can easily spread HIV (and other serious diseases) from one person to another.
Some people who are addicted to drugs may trade sex for drugs or money to get more drugs. This may put them at greater risk for HIV, especially if they do not always practice safe sex.
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Drugs and people with HIV

Some drugs can harm the body’s immune system, which fights infections. This is especially dangerous for people with HIV. Using needles to take drugs may also expose people with HIV to harmful bacteria or viruses, which can also make them very sick.
People addicted to drugs or alcohol are often malnourished. Poor nutrition can be a serious problem for people with HIV, and may make them become sick faster.
Alcohol and other drugs can have dangerous interactions with the medicines that people with HIV take to stay well.
Drug use can disrupt people’s lives. When this happens to people with HIV, they may forget to take their medications, see their doctor, or take other steps to stay well.