Herpes virus infection drives HIV infection among non-injecting drug users in New York

June 28, 2014

HIV and its transmission has long been associated with injecting drug use, where hypodermic syringes are used to administer illicit drugs. Now, a newly reported study by researchers affiliated with New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that HIV infection among heterosexual non-injecting drug users (no hypodermic syringe is used; drugs are taken orally or nasally) in New York City (NYC) has now surpassed HIV infection among persons who inject drugs.

The study, "HSV-2 Co-Infection as a Driver of HIV Transmission among Heterosexual Non-Injecting Drug Users in New York City," was conducted among drug users entering the Mount Sinai Beth Israel drug treatment programs in NYC. The researchers found that HIV infection among non-injecting drug users doubled over the last two decades, from 7% infected in the late 1990s (n= 785) to 14% (n=1764) currently. During this same time-frame, HIV infection among persons who inject drugs fell to 10%.

The increased efficiency for transmitting HIV occurs even when persons with herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) are between outbreaks, as herpes increases both susceptibility to and transmissibility of HIV. More than half of the non-injecting drug users in the study were infected with HSV-2.

"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," notes 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 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."

The study concludes 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. Additional interventions (such as treatment as prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis) are needed to reduce further HIV transmission from HSV-2/HIV co-infected non-injecting drug users.

The City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has initiated a program "treatment as prevention," in which HIV infected persons are given anti-viral medications to both protect their own health and to reduce the chances that they will transmit HIV to others. There are also new federal recommendations to provide anti-retroviral medications to HIV uninfected persons at high risk for becoming infected.

"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.

Explore further: Do men who have sex with men underestimate their HIV risk and miss out on preventive PrEP?

Related Stories

Do men who have sex with men underestimate their HIV risk and miss out on preventive PrEP?

June 23, 2014
Men who have sex with men (MSM) have a disproportionately high risk of acquiring HIV, and unprotected sex between men accounts for most new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. Yet this population tends to underestimate their HIV risk ...

Emerging HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa

June 19, 2014
HIV epidemics are emerging among people who inject drugs in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Though HIV infection levels were historically very low in the Middle East and North Africa, substantial levels ...

Cutting HIV in drug users can benefit others' AIDS mortality

March 26, 2014
(HealthDay)—Efforts to curb HIV transmission among people who inject drugs (PWID) and non-injecting drug users (NIDUs) may reduce AIDS and AIDS-related mortality among heterosexuals, according to a study published in the ...

HIV transmission networks mapped to reduce infection rate

June 6, 2014
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have mapped the transmission network of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in San Diego. The mapping of HIV infections, which used genetic sequencing, ...

CDC urges anti-HIV pill for people at high risk of infection

May 15, 2014
(HealthDay)—People deemed to be at high risk for contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, should take anti-HIV medicines that seem to cut transmission risk, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced ...

Harvard study finds substance abuse, mental health problems in MSM interfere with HIV medication adherence

June 11, 2014
Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for more than 60% of HIV infections in the U.S. and 78% of new infections in men. Antiretroviral therapy can control HIV infection and suppress viral load, but mental health and substance ...

Recommended for you

Paris spotlight on latest in AIDS science

July 21, 2017
Some 6,000 HIV experts gather in Paris from Sunday to report advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of finding a cure push research into new fields.

Scientists elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV in calves

July 20, 2017
Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a significant step forward, eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to HIV by immunizing calves. The findings offer insights for HIV vaccine ...

Heart toxin reveals new insights into HIV-1 integration in T cell genome

July 20, 2017
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 may have evolved to integrate its genetic material into certain immune-cell-activating genes in humans, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Scientists capture first high-resolution image of key HIV protein transitional state

July 13, 2017
A new, three-dimensional snapshot of HIV demonstrates the radical structural transformations that enable the virus to recognize and infect host cells, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute ...

Barrier to autoimmune disease may open door to HIV, study suggests

July 11, 2017
Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine have discovered that a process that protects the body from autoimmune disease also prevents the immune system from generating antibodies that can neutralize the ...

Team tests best delivery mode for potential HIV vaccine

June 20, 2017
For decades, HIV has successfully evaded all efforts to create an effective vaccine but researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) are steadily inching ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.