Difficulties in Treating HIV in Drug Users

December 4, 2011

The difficulty in treating HIV and AIDS in drug abusers lies partly in the fact that many of these abusers are not actively seeking treatment in licensed facilities that can treat the co-occurring disorders. Oftentimes, even medically trained physicians are not able to properly diagnose a substance abuse problem. This allows the addiction to continue undetected.

Further, proximity to care and willingness to receive treatment is a major hurdle in treating HIV and AIDS. Because most drug abusers who have contracted HIV are Injected Drug Users, they tend to be found in areas with less access to treatment facilities and hospitalization services. Traditionally, outreach to these groups has been very difficult and communities and treatment centers must figure out how to reach these people effectively to effect significant change.

A great deal of difficulty in treatment can stem from a lack of understanding as well. Counselors may not have a full grasp of the treatment of co-occurring disorders and may not know the best practices of treatment for patients with HIV or AIDS. Further, counselors and drug addicts may not be able to communicate effectively because of disparate backgrounds, language barriers, ethnic tensions, lifestyle differences and sexual orientation issues. Group and individual therapy is even more effective when targeted to the client’s particular co-occurring diseases.

Both HIV and drug addiction are treatable and both diseases can be slowed, meaning that there is hope for those who are both HIV positive and abusing drugs. Treatment must be comprehensive and unique based on individual circumstances. Medication and regular hospital support will be very important. Traditional treatment for drug abuse and addiction, including group therapy and individual therapy as well as the environment in which they are treated will also play a large role in the recovery.

Finally, addressing spiritual issues through support programs as well as management of anger, stress and emotional issues will be an important part of any treatment program’s success.

The bottom line is that treatment of one life-altering disease is complex, let alone two. Treating these two epidemic diseases requires specialized care and hard work.

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