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!

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B-Wise User MOKGADI 27 May 2019 13:53

Hi. I was sitting with my peer educators group which i am mentoring and as we were conversing around this topic, an idea came to mind. Will it be feasible to have talk/sessions at tarvens at which people can openly and comfortably discuss the impact of alcohol and drugs. It it common sense that most males frequent tarvens/ clubs or what i call "chilling spots" than clinics or health events and if we can pernetrate that space, we will be able to reach them and altleast lne or two can get the message and undertand the negative impact that alcohol and substances can have on their social, health, psychological and even financial status.

B-Wise User Anonymous 12 February 2019 20:00

It happens that I fall in love with an HIV person,so what steps can I take to handle this situation more healthy

B-Wise Expert Expert 25 February 2019 16:03

Dear Anonymous. Good question! You can start by visiting your nearest clinic and asking for doctor or nurse about PrEP. PrEP stands for Pre-exposure Prophylaxis. Prophylaxis means that it can prevent you getting an illness, which in this case is HIV, and Pre-exposure means that you start taking the medication before you are exposed to the illness. So PrEP is the medication an HIV negative person can take before they are exposed to HIV, which can help prevent them getting HIV. People usually take PrEP to prevent them against contracting HIV through sexual intercourse with an HIV positive person or when the person’s HIV status is unknown. When you take PrEP you need to see a doctor regularly to monitor you and to do blood tests to make sure you do not get any side effects from the medication. Remember that PrEP is not 100% effective, so you should still use condoms to help prevent you from getting HIV. It is even better for you to also know your partner’s HIV status. 



B-Wise User Anonymous 30 December 2018 16:20

How do I deal with an hiv positive partner who drinks a lot and whenever you try to tell her that it is not good for her because of her hiv status she starts being aggressive and feeling judged because of her status. How can you help such a person to start living a healthy life?

B-Wise Expert Expert 4 January 2019 10:21

Hi, thanks for your question. It sounds like you want the best for your partner – but the way you’re communicating it leads her to feel judged and angry. If you do want to encourage her to drink less, it may help to show her that you aren’t judging her for her status, and make it clear that this is for her health (you can use medical information if that would help) and that you are saying these things because you care about her. If you know what kinds of words or behaviours lead her to feel judged, try to use less of those. One thing that’s important for both of you to understand is why she drinks – is it peer pressure, or to escape difficult feelings, or some other reason? If those problems could be solved in another way, would she still drink? Ultimately it’s her choice how she lives her life, but you can do your best to support her healthy behaviours and refer her to help or counselling if she is dealing with difficult issues. Some of these resources might also be able to help you or her if you need support with alcohol abuse or mental health. 



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

B-Wise Expert Expert 17 December 2018 19:10

Hi there. Thank you for your question and well done for taking the right step on knowing you HIV status and disclosing this to your partner, so you can protect them.

If you are planning on having a baby, it is important to make sure that you are healthy enough to have and keep a baby. When taking ARVs, it’s important that you take them at the same time every day, the way your doctor prescribed, and get tested regularly so that you can make sure you are virally suppressed before you try for a baby. Here are two articles you need to read. Click here: Article 1 & Article 2 to learn more, and speak to your doctor about the next steps you need to take, so you can make sure both of you and your baby are safe and healthy. Good luck!



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.