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Drug Use within the Homeless Population

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Drugs and their subsequent misuse has been a contentious issue plaguing society for decades. With the advent of the internet, it is becoming more difficult to curtail many of the illegal activities individuals engage with regards to the drug use. In America, drugs are becoming a very serious issue as immigrants enter into the country illegally. By entering into the country, these individuals provide drugs and other narcotics to disseminate among the masses. Even more troublesome, it seems that little is being done to help to prevent the influence of drugs within American society. One issue that is especially interesting is the substance abuse among the homeless and how that affects the HIV rates within the homeless population. Many individuals are not concerned with drug use among the homeless population. It is my contention, however, that drug use among the homeless has a profound impact on the society in which we live in.

To begin with, many opponents of this issue will be quick to point out that the drug use among the homeless is miniscule compared to that of the nation as a whole. This fact by itself is indeed true. The homeless population is very small; however it is not the size that makes this issue important. Rather, it is the implications homeless drug use will have impact on the society. Homeless individuals are less likely to sterilize needles when injecting drugs. In fact, many homeless individuals share needles in their efforts to use a particular drug. These unsanitary conditions provide an easy avenue for HIV to develop. As the influence of the disease spreads, it harms the society. It only takes few individuals to spread an epidemic to the entire nation. Such is the power of compounding. For example, let’s assume that two homeless people each month contract the HIV virus through the drug use. If these two individuals share needles with two more individuals each month, after one year the amount of HIV cases would have grown from 2 individuals to 4096 individuals. Furthermore, if this trend continues for another 5 years, the original two HIV positive individuals will have indirectly infected nearly 115,292,218 people. As such, I believe in the argument that the homeless population is immaterial, which, as compared to the rest of society, is not valid.

Brief Introduction and Overview of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among the Homeless

HIV, the epidemic that seems to have no end, rears it head year after year, causing the catastrophic damage. Now more than ever, all individuals, regardless of race or demographics, must be weary of the devastation this virus can cause. One social economic class that is particularly prone to this epidemic is that of the homeless community. According to the center for disease control and prevention, the African American community accounts for nearly 46% of people living with a HIV diagnosis (1).  Of those, 23% are homeless. What is even more mindboggling is the fact that the African American community only accounts for 13% of the current U.S. population.

Over the course of an average lifespan, experts estimate that 1 in 16 black males and 1 in 30 black females will become infected with HIV. This is in the direct contrast to their white counterparts who are significantly less likely to contract HIV with a 1 in 104 and a 1 in 588 chance respectively (2). This is of the particular importance to homeless teenagers who engage in drug use at the early ages. For one, these activities develop habits that are inherently risky, in regards to contracting HIV and other diseases through the drug use. Also, many young teenagers are not properly educated on the proper protection techniques in regards to the drugs. For example, individuals, especially those that are homeless, are not concerned with sterilized needles. They are also not concerned about the implications this drug use will have on their immediate friends, family members or the society

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How is HIV spread among the homeless populations? According to the CDC, the percentage of HIV infection diagnoses  among adults and the adolescents who are exposed through the male-to-male sexual contact has increased by 6% from 2006 to 2009. This is quite important, as male-to-male contact is now becoming more profound and accepted within the society. This provides another means for the drug use to enter into the foray. As previously, drug use was predominantly engaged in both a male and female, now homosexual males are engaging in this activity, as it is deemed more acceptable. The total percentage now stands at 56% with the trend increasing with male-to-male intercourse, and HIV infection as well (3). Of the total overall percentages of diagnosed HIV infections, 8% were attributed to the injection drug use. Again, this may seem small, but remember the power of compounding and how quickly 2 individuals can become 1 million individuals.   In regards to the homeless population, a trend is starting to form. Firstly, as I mentioned at the beginning of this paper, homosexual drug use contributes a disproportionate amount to the total HIV cases in the United States. In fact, of the homeless population, male-to-male contact constitutes a vast majority of cases not female-to-male, as many individuals would think. Now in regards to heterosexual contact among the homeless, an estimated 85% of all diagnosed Females contracted the disease from a member of the opposite sex (4). The remaining 15% was attributed to the drug use once again. What is occurring is a decreasing trend in the spread of HIV through the sexual contact and an increase in HIV through the use of drugs and other narcotics. Furthermore, not only are these relationships occurring between male and female groups, but they now occur in male-to-male and other homosexual networks. As I have alluded earlier in the document, African Americans constituted the largest percentage of diagnoses of HIV infection each year in regards to the drug use.  From 2006 to 2009, nearly 50% of all the HIV infections were from African Americans, 28% were whites, and 19% were Hispanic. The remaining portion was spread equally between the Asian, Native Americans and multi-racial people (5).

As the facts above state, a very debatable issue regarding the substance abuse is the prevalence of HIV among the homeless. My aim was to demonstrate, contrary to popular belief, that the drug use among the homeless has profound implications for the society at large. Furthermore, drug use among the homeless has a profound impact on the minority communities in which it occurs most frequently. Finally, I dispelled some of the misconceptions my opponents would have regarding to the seriousness of this issue for society and the communities in which these HIV positive individuals dwell.

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