For the first time in 22 years, the AIDS International Conference is being held in the United States.

The conference is in Washington, DC from July 22-27th. The conference gathers over 20,000 researchers and advocates together in one place annually to create strategies and consider ideas for addressing the AIDS epidemic. This year, there is news to celebrate as well. The number of AIDS-related deaths dropped 5.6% last year, and the number of new infections is down from 3.2 million in 2001 to 2.5 million. In all, a total of 34.2 million people are living with HIV worldwide, according to a report released by UNAIDS. AIDS deaths peaked in 2005 and 2006, according to an article entitled “AIDS Deaths Drop as Global Access to HIV Drugs Expand” by Shannon Pettypiece and Robert Langreth in The authors also quote Mitchell Warren of AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, who says that “the world is in a better place” with respect to the AIDS epidemic. Warren cites new developments in medicine that make it possible to now shift the focus from science to creating access to treatment and early intervention worldwide. The battle is now “about money and politics.”

In the United States, the battle includes educating folks about the link between drug abuse and HIV. NIDA’s (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Learn the Link website shares valuable information regarding the generally well-known link between sharing needles for injection drug use and HIV risk. It also offers information on less well-known links between drug abuse and HIV. These lesser-known links include drug or alcohol abuse and the impact on the judgment. Impaired judgment can lead to risky behavior such as unsafe sexual practices. The site features videos and webisodes as well as other information designed to reach teens and young adults on this topic. Resources on this site include information in English and Spanish.

NIDA also reports on the negative biological impact that drug abuse has on overall health. As a result, the body’s susceptibility to HIV and the ability to fight the progress of AIDS is harmed by continued drug abuse and addiction. As both drug abuse and HIV affect the brain, there is also an increased amount of cognitive impairment—a double whammy- for HIV patients who are also abusing methamphetamines, as compared to HIV patients who do not abuse drugs.

As is so often the case, hope for better outcomes is available via drug abuse treatment. According to NIDA, research documents the positive impact of treatment on reduced drug use and related risk behaviors for HIV, educating patients on HIV/AIDS, encouraging counseling and testing services, and making referrals to additional resources.

For more information about Walden (Walden Behavioral Health’s) range of behavioral health services, including outpatient and residential substance abuse treatmentcontact us if in Maryland at (301) 997-1300.

Note: No post of Walden (Walden Behavioral Health’s) Behavioral Health Blog is to be considered medical or therapeutic advice.