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Crack Smokers Face Hugely Increased Risk of HIV

posted 11:43 AM EST, Thu October 22, 2009
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Crack Smokers Face Hugely Increased Risk of HIV © Photo Credit: Broma

Canadian researchers say that daily crack users are four times more likely to contract HIV than non crack smoking drug users.

Researchers at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS recruited over a thousand injection drug using study subjects and followed up with these users over a ten year period, looking to see what behaviors were associated with increased HIV transmission.

At the study’s inception, all subjects were HIV negative, but a decade later, more than 10% had contracted the disease.

The Findings - Crack Smoking Injection Drug Users Face Elevated Risks

Surprisingly, injection drug users who also reported daily crack cocaine smoking were more than 4 times as likely to contract HIV than those injection drug users who reported occasional or no crack smoking.

The researchers, who published their findings in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, say they don’t know exactly why crack smokers are at an increased risk of infection, but they offer some theories, such as:

  • Hot or broken crack pipes can lead to mouth burns and cuts. People with skin breaks would be at risk of infection when sharing needles or engaging in oral sex
  • People smoking crack may be more likely to trade sex for drugs and may have more HIV positive individuals within a social circle
  • Crack users may engage in risky activities while using crack and later forget their actions

The researchers call for harm reduction programs, such as supervised inhalation rooms and free crack pipes for users, to reduce the spread of HIV.

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