How the Global War on Drugs Fuels HIV and AIDS

Many believe the war on drugs is counterproductive, and that it has lead to more cases of HIV—especially among needles users. 

Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell


What’s the Latest Development?

It is the fear of being incarcerated that makes drug users hold onto dirty needles instead of turning them in for clean ones. “Since the 1990s, effective public-health strategies to curb HIV transmission in drug users have led to drops in new infections in most countries. But over the same time period, seven countries have seen a 25% increase in new infections.” The countries that have seen an increase are the countries that have strict drug laws where people are arrested and incarcerated for needle possession.  According to reports, infection rates fell when certain strategies were put into place, which allowed drug users to trade in their needles in exchange for helpby way of a methadone-maintenance program to help wean users off of their drug addiction. However in countries like Russia where methadone programs are banned, 37 percent of all “IV-drug users are HIV positivein spite of the fact that “the World Health Organization and other expert bodies that have examined the question scientifically have determined that maintenance is more effective than other treatments at reducing drug-related crime, death and the spread of blood-borne disease.” Another country stigmatized by the problem is the U.S., where "a longstanding federal ban on funding for needle exchange, which was briefly lifted in 2011, was reinstated this year." Washington, D.C. maintains the highest HIV-infection rate in the country. 

What’s the Big Idea? 

To force drug users into quitting through methods of arrest and incarceration have been proven to be counterproductive in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Instead of curbing the habit, drug users will hang on to dirty needlesraising the risk of HIV infectionthan to use a clean needle. "Researchers know what works to fight HIV, and they also know that it is far cheaper to prevent infection than it is to treat it. More than ever before, the evidence also reveals how best to combat addictionarresting users for needle or drug possession does not help.”

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less

The world's watersheds, mapped in gorgeous detail

Hungarian cartographer travels the world while mapping its treasures.

Strange Maps
  • Simple idea, stunning result: the world's watersheds in glorious colors.
  • The maps are the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs.
  • His job: to travel and map the world, one good cause at a time.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less