Education on safer sex shown to be effective among drug users
Drug users generally have an increased risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), because an altered state of mind sometimes leads to bad decision-making.
As such, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center conducted a study to determine whether education and counseling can make a difference in safer sex practices among cocaine and heroin users.
They discovered that offering the combination of voluntary STD testing, counseling and addiction treatment options resulted in lower rates of unprotected sex among drug users.
Authors of the study observed more than 1,000 drug users between the ages of 18 and 54 who had been admitted to the emergency department and subsequently offered the three-tiered education and screening options. After one year, the subjects who were male, older or HIV positive were more likely to use condoms during intercourse. Overall, the team observed that the participants were less likely to have sex while high.
"The increase in condom use and the decrease in sex while high support the importance of easy access to HIV counseling and testing and ED drug screening and referral treatment," said researcher Edward Bernstein, M.D.
People who use intravenous drugs like heroin are putting themselves in danger of contracting HIV due to the blood-to-blood contact involved in sharing needles. However, the study authors noted that their research focused on sexual behavior because it's more common in the U.S. to contract an infection through sex than drug use.
Results of this study suggest that public education campaigns on the dangers of having sex while intoxicated may help curb rates of STDs among many groups of people.