The Intersection of Two Epidemics: Not a “Color-blind” Discussion

In the early 80’s, the medical community was stunned by a growing epidemic of severe complications of immune deficiency which first appeared in gay men but began to be seen in other populations as well. Based on the epidemiology of the disease during these early years of the U.S. AIDS epidemic, the groups identified at highest risk for AIDS were the four H’s; Homosexuals, Haitians, Heroin addicts, and Hemophiliacs.

Intravenous drug use, mainly heroin, may have played a critical role in HIV entering Black communities and of course, people infected with HIV from sharing contaminated needles could also spread the infection sexually.

To me, there has been an Opioid epidemic for decades, decimating poor communities of color and poor white communities as well. Because heroin addiction was so prevalent among HIV-infected individuals, treating the addiction was a required skill for managing these patients.

Indeed, the epidemic is nothing new in our communities. Disturbingly, a strong body of science showed conclusively that needle exchange programs (programs that provide clean needles to drug users to protect them from contracting HIV/Hepatitis through sharing needles withonly