Puerto Rican Drug Injectors More Likely To Contract HIV, Study


Puerto Rican drug injectors are twice more likely to contract HIV than their American counterparts, according to a New York University study.

HIV prevention and treatment advances have lowered HIV incidences among People Who Inject Drugs (PWID) in the United States.

For the study, researchers from New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) compared HIV-related data of PWIDs in Puerto Rico and in Northeastern US (NE) to determine whether disparities among PRPWID continue. Northeastern US contains the highest number of Puerto Ricans than any other region in the country.

"Injection drug use as a risk for HIV continues to be over-represented among Puerto Ricans. Lower availability of HIV prevention tools (syringe exchange and drug treatment) and ART treatment challenges, for PWID in PR, contribute to higher HIV risk and incidence for PRPWID in both locations," Dr. Sherry Deren, senior research scientist at NYU College of Nursing, and director of CDUHR, in a press release.

In 2010, the Northeast had the highest rates of new AIDS diagnoses, with Hispanics comprising of about 27 percent. Nearly 48.7 percent of Hispanics who have been diagnosed with HIV were located in the Northeast.

The Northeast was also associated with more new infections as a result of drug use (15.8%) than other regions of the country (8.8 percent). In 2010, the number of HIV diagnoses caused due to injection drug use in Puerto Rico was two times greater (20.4%) than US.

Although Puerto Ricans constitute 9 percent of the US Hispanic Population, nearly 23 percent of HIV cases have been diagnosed among native people of Puerto Rico. The researchers said that heterosexual HIV transmission has now exceeded injecting-related HIV transmission in Puerto Rico (40.7 percent vs 20.4 percent).

"Controlling heterosexual transmission of HIV will require controlling HIV infection among people who inject drugs, as those who inject drugs and are sexually active will serve as a continuing reservoir for future heterosexual transmission if injecting-related HIV transmission is not brought under control," said Deren.

The study titled, "Addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Puerto Rican people who inject drugs: the Need for a Multi-Region Approach", is published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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