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