That was the number of men and women diagnosed with HIV as a result of injection-drug use (IDU) across the United States in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That figure represents nearly 10 percent of all HIV diagnoses.
In total, more than 170,000 men and women are living with HIV as a result of IDU throughout the country.
With the current opioid epidemic (and rise of injection-drug use), which took the lives of 907 Philadelphia residents last year, it is important to revisit these numbers and develop comprehensive solutions in the prevention and treatment of HIV. In Philadelphia, HIV infection rates are an alarming five times the national average.
To all our neighbors in Philadelphia, injection-drug usage and HIV transmission are risks to be taken very seriously.
Individuals living with HIV/AIDS have complex physical, emotional and social needs. Due to the stigma and health implications from living with HIV, there are many day-to-day challenges, and nearly 60 percent of HIV-positive individuals experience depression. A recent study published in the Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy found a 33-percent prevalence of drug abuse among people living with HIV.
However, we at Siloam believe access to comprehensive services that prevent, diagnose and treat HIV can help break this cycle.
Siloam, a wellness center for individuals living with HIV, has served thousands of HIV-positive residents over the course of its 26-year history. We help hundreds of HIV-positive residents navigate their physical, emotional and social needs, and we are the only HIV-wellness center in the city that treats the whole person: mind, body and spirit. Through our wellness programs, we provide the tools that empower people living with HIV to live positive, healthy lives free of drug abuse. At no charge, our clients may participate in support groups, individual counseling, spiritual direction, body works and retreats, among other programs.
This year, many of our clients with histories of substance abuse celebrated being drug-free.
We believe comprehensive wellness services are critical to the HIV community. By providing tools to live healthy lives, HIV-positive individuals can improve their overall well-being and quality of life — decreasing the risk of drug abuse and HIV transmission among at-risk individuals.
And to everyone, prevention is key. We encourage everyone to always use condoms, never reuse needles and speak with a health provider about PrEP (for those who do not have HIV but are at risk).
Together, as a community, we must ensure everyone has access to comprehensive services to effectively prevent, diagnose and treat HIV in the context of today’s opioid crisis.
For our neighbors impacted by HIV, we hope you will visit Siloam for the resources and tools to live a positive, healthy life among an understanding and welcoming community.
Siloam Wellness is a wellness center for individuals living with HIV/AIDS that provides mind, body and spirit services to improve the well-being and overall quality of life of our clients. For more information, visit http://www.siloamwellness.org.