Addiction and HIV/AIDS

Substance abuse and addiction are linked to the human immunodeficiency virus - HIV - as well as to the acquired immune deficiency disorder - AIDS. This trend has been on the increase since the epidemic was first discovered in the 1970s. It is also important to note that there are several aspects of substance abuse that could increase the risk that you will contract and develop HIV/AIDS.

As an active addict, you have a higher risk of contracting or even transmitting this condition. Drug and alcohol abuse, on the other hand, will often worsen the symptoms of the infection if you already have one.

To contract HIV, you need to come into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the virus. This could be through direct injection into your bloodstream or as a result of damaged tissue.

Risky and unsafe sexual behavior, however, is one of the most common ways of contracting the condition. If you are under the influence of alcohol and drugs, it is highly likely that you may end up engaging in such dangerous behavior as having unprotected partners who might have the virus.

Needle sharing and intravenous drug use are the other ways in which you can get infected if you are living with a substance use disorder. This is highly likely especially if you abuse drugs like methamphetamine and heroin.


When you contract HIV, your immune system will be attacked by the virus. It will also infect the cells inside your body as well as make them more resistant to most treatment modalities. Over time, these cells will start producing the virus and continue infecting the other healthy cells in your body.

If you leave the condition untreated, this process could lead to the development of AIDS or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. AIDS, on the other hand, will weaken the ability of your body to effective protect itself from any infections and diseases that you might contract. This condition is also the last stage in HIV infection even though not everyone who has HIV will develop AIDS.

If you abuse alcohol and drugs, you might worsen the signs and symptoms of your HIV infection. Substance abuse will compromise your immune system - which would already be targeted by HIV. Further, it could cause more profound cognitive impairment and cellular injury. This could make the disease progress much faster than if you were not using drugs.

HIV/AIDS Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS will vary widely based on you as an individual as well as on the stage that the disease has reached. The most effective way to accurately determine if you have a diagnosis for HIV is by getting tested.

Even so, not everyone will experience all of the same symptoms. 2 to 4 weeks after you have been exposed to the virus, you may experience a flu-like illness. However, you might also not show any symptoms.

Some of the typical symptoms of HIV/AIDS include but are not limited to:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Muscle aches
  • Night sweats
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes

It is possible for these symptoms to last anywhere between a couple of days to a few weeks. Over the early stages of the HIV infection, getting tested might return a negative result because the virus might not usually show up on tests. However, you will still be highly contagious - meaning that may transmit the infection to other people over this period.

In case you are worried that you might have been exposed, the best decision you can make is to go for testing. Most of the available HIV tests will detect the presence of antibodies - the proteins that your body will make in reaction against an infection like HIV.

After you have been exposed to this virus, it will probably take a couple of weeks before your body starts producing the antibodies that are detected using HIV tests. For this reason, it is recommended that you take the test about 3 months after the potential infection. You can retake the test a few months later to confirm the result. This is the most effective way to be sure of your results.

HIV/AIDS Treatment

Although there is an increase in the treatment options for and awareness of this condition for several decades now, most people still feel the stigma around the condition. If you are struggling with addiction as well as living with HIV/AIDS, you need not fear when you enroll in an addiction treatment program.

Many of the counselors and therapists who work with HIV positive clients will have training and experience. As such, they can help you heal and cope after you have received a positive diagnosis. The important thing to do is to ensure that you find a compassionate and knowledgeable therapist who clearly understands what you have been going through so that you can find peace and get started on the road to long term recovery.

Getting Help

In case you tested positive for HIV/AIDS, you would already be infected with the virus. While in this situation, it is essential that you understand the role that substance abuse and addiction will play in the progression of the condition.

There are many treatment programs available today and they can get you started on the road to long term health, wellness, and recovery. They can also ensure that you are able to work towards sobriety as well as learn how to lead a healthy and productive lifestyle.

By taking your medications regularly and curbing the substance abuse and addictive habits that you were accustomed to, you can ensure that no harm comes to your immune system. As a result, this could increase your chances of decreasing the progression of the disease. It could also ensure that you are able to lead a relatively normal and happy lifestyle.

The important thing to keep in mind is that your substance abuse and addiction can have a negative impact on your HIV/AIDS diagnosis. As a result, you need to overcome these problems so that you can effectively manage the condition and attain long term health and recovery.

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