Substance abuse and HIV

30 years ago the HIV epidemic found its way to our country. We are only now beginning to turn the tide against this epidemic which has devastated our families, communities and country. Drug abuse is also an epidemic that is taking its toll in our communities, especially affecting young people. We read terrible stories of young people addicted to nyope, tick, dagga, mandrax and abusing alcohol.

Addiction also has no cure - so once you're hooked, you're hooked for life – and rehabilitation may or may not help; therefore it’s best to never start taking drugs!

Alcohol and drug abuse has also been linked with HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. So what exactly does this mean?

Does using drugs and alcohol increase your chances of getting HIV?

Yes, using drugs and alcohol interferes with your mind and good judgement. You are more likely to take risks and do things that you will regret or not even remember that may expose you to getting HIV. Some of these risks include:
  • Having unprotected sex
  • Getting so drunk or 'high' you put yourself in a dangerous situation where rape can happen
  • Trading sexual favours for drugs or money
  • Sharing needles to inject drugs into your body

Why is using drugs and alcohol as an HIV positive person not good?

If you are HIV positive, drugs and alcohol abuse can weaken your body’s immune system, which fights infections. For people with HIV, this is very dangerous as it can put you at risk of picking up viruses, which can make you very sick.

Drugs and alcohol can also have dangerous reactions with your ART medication causing them not to work or give you bad side effects.

When you use drugs and alcohol, it can cause you to forget to take your ART medication which an HIV positive person needs to take every day to stay well.

And for some people who become addicted to substances (like alcohol and drugs) they do not take care of their health or eat properly which may make them get sick faster.

If you have any more questions or concerns about your own risk or HIV, go see a doctor or nurse at your local clinic. Knowledge is power!

Add a Comment/Question
You need to be signed in to add a comment or like an article.


B-Wise User Anonymous 15 December 2018 11:21

Hi. Am HIV positive and my partner is negative and we would like to have a baby soon as am on treatment

Thank you for your question. We have sent it to an expert and will get back to you within 48 hours with a response.
B-Wise User Anonymous 22 November 2018 15:13

Thank you for this article!

B-Wise User Anonymous 4 November 2017 13:58

I am 38weeks pregnant and I have pimples under my belly button, they are itchy and they keep multiplying when I scratch them.why is this happening?

B-Wise Expert Expert 8 November 2017 09:46

Hi, thanks for your question. There are a few reasons this could be happening, but it’s hard to say for sure without a doctor or nurse examining you. We recommend that you see a nurse or a doctor at your local clinic. You can use our Clinic Finder to find a clinic near you. 

B-Wise User Anonymous 15 February 2017 18:33

thank you for the information, this site helps us a lot as young people. what do you think about BLUETOOTH? how can we make people who are using BLUETOOTH to know the dangers of it? can we come with a strategy on how to approach them?

B-Wise Expert Expert 13 April 2018 13:55

Hi there, thank you for your question. You can take a look at our article on Bluetooth – A very dangerous drug craze which you can help stop for more information about the drug.

The best way in which we can let people know the dangers of the drug is to spread the word on social media, in clinics and hospitals as well as educate young people about the drug. 

B-Wise User Awoshkins 22 August 2015 11:30

This is true. Young people have no control when they are under the influence. There should be messages like the one from Dept of transport" Don't drink and drive" and health message must say "Don't drink and have sex with a stranger, Don't drink and have unprotected sex" the consequances are very high there's a risk of unplanned pregancy, contracting STIs including HIV. Young people should drink responsible and at a legal aga to drink.

B-Wise User yoyo 21 August 2015 18:49

If i have a skin problem What most i do?

B-Wise Expert Expert 20 April 2018 16:28

Skin problems are stressful no matter your age. There are many reasons for skin problems so it is best to go to your local clinic and tell the nurse or doctor about your symptoms as you may need to get treatment. 

B-Wise Expert Expert 6 May 2016 15:20

Skin problems are stressful no matter your age. There are many reasons for skin problems so it is best to go to your local clinic and tell the nurse or doctor about your symptoms as you may need to get treatment.