Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

HIV & AIDS Health Center

Font Size

Dangerous Intersection of Drug Use and Sexual HIV Transmission Points to Critical Need for Comprehensive HIV Prevention

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 (IDU) also are at risk for infection through the sexual transmission of HIV. Also, 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 (36%) of AIDS cases in the United States. This disturbing trend appears to be continuing. Of the 48,269 new cases of AIDS reported in 1998, 15,024 (31%) were IDU-associated.

Recommended Related to HIV/AIDS

HIV as You Get Older

By 2013, almost 30 percent of all people with HIV were age 50 or over. This greying of the HIV population shows how well today’s HIV treatments can work. HIV makes aging itself more complicated. But plenty of people have had HIV for years, even decades, and are doing well. "These days, we fully expect that someone with HIV will live a long, healthy life," says Christine A. Wanke, MD, professor of medicine and director of the nutrition and infection unit at Tufts University School of Medicine. "But...

Read the HIV as You Get Older article > >

Racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States are most heavily affected by IDU-associated AIDS. In 1998, IDUs accounted for 36% of all AIDS cases among both African American and Hispanic adults and adolescents, compared with 22% 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, 59% of all AIDS cases among women have been attributed to injection drug use or sex with partners who inject drugs, compared with 31% 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.

Preventive Strategies for IDUs Must Be Comprehensive

Comprehensive HIV prevention interventions for substance abusers must provide education on how to prevent transmission through sex.

Numerous studies have documented that drug users are at risk for HIV through both drug-related and sexual behaviors, which places their partners at risk as well. Comprehensive programs must provide the information, skills, and support necessary to reduce both risks. Researchers have found that many interventions aimed at reducing sexual risk behaviors among drug users have significantly increased the practice of safer sex (e.g., using condoms, avoiding unprotected sex) among participants.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

How much do you know?
contemplative man
What to do now.
Should you be tested?
HIV under microscope
What does it mean?
HIV AIDS Screening
man opening condom wrapper
HIV AIDS Treatment
Discrimination Stigma
Treatment Side Effects
grilled chicken and vegetables
obese man standing on scale
cold sore