Cocaine Enhanced HIV/AIDS

Drug use is the second leading cause of acquiring HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). It is well-known, that using illicit drugs such as marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, and cocaine, increases susceptibility to becoming infected with HIV due to high risk behavior associated with drug use, such as, unprotected sex, particularly in exchange for drugs or money, and non compliance to anti-retroviral treatment. However, the likelihood of acquiring HIV/AIDS is increased by cocaine use in both heterosexual and homosexual women and men, regardless of intravenous (IV) drug use. Even when compared to IV drug users of other drugs, such as opiates, the incidence of HIV is greater in cocaine addicts. This indicates that increased susceptibility to HIV can’t be explained by this factor alone. Additionally, there is an association between cocaine abuse and rapid conversion of HIV infections to AIDS.

Cofactor in HIV pathogenesis

Chimera mice were used to investigate the effect of cocaine on HIV pathogenicity. Specially breed mice, humanized to express a functional human immune system, were infected with HIV in the presence or absence of cocaine. Cocaine co-exposure led to the acceleration of HIV infection, a decrease in CD4+ cells, and a significant spike in circulating viral load. (Hybrid human-mouse model was used because normal mouse cells do not become infected with HIV, and exposing human test subjects to HIV and cocaine would be unethical and illegal). Continue reading

Easy Read: Telling JJ by John Woodrow Cox

Have you ever wondered about the lives of the many infants born with HIV? What becomes of their childhood and what obstacles do they face, socially, emotionally, and medically? This fascinating article: Telling JJ by John Woodrow Cox, takes us into the private life of one such little girl. This story captivated me and broke my heart at the same time. This is a must read, trust me you will have your perspective changed and your understanding of what it means to live with HIV altered, forever.safe_imageJJ has sat at this table many times coloring pictures with crayons at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. JJ had long known that something else was wrong with her — that no one should touch her blood. A pile of medical records of children who have HIV sit atop a conference-room table at the hospital. – excerpt from Telling JJ

Since the introduction of antiretroviral drugs, mother-to-child transmission of HIV has fallen to below 1-2% in the United States. However, transmission still occurs due to missed opportunities for prevention, such as,  prenatal, intrapartum, and postnatal antiretroviral treatment to both mother and infant. Transmission can occur during pregnancy (particularly in the 3rd trimester), during labor and delivery, or during breastfeeding.


It  has recently been broadcast that there has been an outbreak of HIV in the state of Indiana. Governor Mike Pence declared the situation a state public health emergency, as he announced a HIV epidemic for Scott County, Indiana. This however is not the only region in the U.S. that is experiencing an increased incidence of HIV infections; Atlanta Georgia has also recently seen new cases at epidemic proportions. According to and article in Atlanta Daily World, “Atlanta ranks number one among U.S. cities when it comes to the rate of new HIV cases diagnosed”. What’s most disturbing, is that the article states that ” by the time patients are diagnosed in Atlanta, almost one -third have advanced to clinical AIDS”.

HIV the virus that causes AIDS has been around now for over 30 years, and although there still is no cure, the disease has become manageable – to the point of being considered a chronic disease. So, the last thing you’d expect to hear is that there is an ‘epidemic’ of the virus right here in America. You might be surprised because the once mass hysteria and phobia surrounding the disease has been sociably ameliorated.  Public health awareness campaigns rightfully designed to erase the stigma – that prevented many people from being tested and seeking treatment, have been largely successful. Why then is this happening now? What can we learn from this current news about a 3 decade old plague? Continue reading