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Herpes Virus Infection Driving HIV Infection Among Non-Injecting Drug Users: Study

Update Date: Jun 28, 2014 09:25 PM EDT

HIV infection among heterosexual non-injecting drug users in New York City has now surpassed HIV infection among persons who inject drugs, a new study has found. 

The study was conducted among drug users entering the Mount Sinai Beth Israel drug treatment programs in NYC. 

The study found that HIV infection among non-injecting drug users doubled over the last two decades, from 7 percent infected in the late 1990s to 14 percent currently. In the same time period, HIV infection among persons who inject drugs fell to 10 percent. 

"Heterosexual intercourse is usually not very efficient for transmitting HIV, but the efficiency of heterosexual transmission nearly triples in the presence of herpes simplex virus type 2," noted the study's lead author, Don Des Jarlais, PhD, Deputy Director, Research Methods and Infectious Diseases Cores, Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and Professor of Psychiatry and of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, in the press release. "In New York City, we have done an excellent job of reducing HIV among persons who inject drugs and we must now put more efforts into reducing sexual transmission associated with non-injecting drug use."

Researchers concluded that an increase in HIV infection among these non-injecting drug users is better considered as an increase in HSV- 2/HIV co-infection rather than simply an increase in HIV prevalence, the press release added.

"If we can implement these programs on a large scale, we should be able to control sexual transmission of HIV in the city, and achieve the goal of an "End to the AIDS Epidemic," said Dr. Des Jarlais.

The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE. 

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