The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) will observe World AIDS Day tomorrow – December 1, 2009 – and use the occasion to draw attention to the HIV risks associated with the dramatic rise in teen heroin use on Long Island.
“Heroin has always been inextricably linked to HIV and this new cadre of young heroin users is at high risk for contracting the disease,” said LICADD Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds. “We are seeing progression from snorting to injecting in about 10% of young people actively using heroin on Long Island and the reuse of syringes has always fueled the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C and other bloodborne pathogens,” he added. “Those using heroin and other drugs are also far more likely to engage in unprotected sex, thereby multiplying their HIV risk even if they aren’t using needles. The heroin crisis among Long Island has the potential to fuel a major resurgence of HIV/AIDS cases among young people and to erase whatever prevention gains we’ve made over the course of the last decade.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV and one in five is unaware of their status. Every 9½ minutes, someone in the US is infected with HIV and more than a quarter of those cases are among individuals between the ages of 20 and 29. New York continues to account for 18% of our nation’s HIV/AIDS cases and Long Island remains one of the nation’s hardest hit suburbs.
World AIDS Day observances began in 1988 and provide an opportunity to re-focus the world’s attention on promoting access to HIV testing and treatment, fighting prejudice and improving HIV prevention education. This year’s World AIDS Day theme is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’ and emphasizes the importance of eliminating health care disparities that place adolescents, racial/ethnic minorities and women at increased risk for illness and death.
LICADD has been at the forefront of efforts to address Long Island’s teen heroin crisis, providing a broad spectrum of chemical dependency services, including planned family interventions, solution-focused counseling, treatment placements and relapse prevention support. LICADD also provides a broad array of substance abuse prevention programs in schools and community settings as well as parent education workshops. The agency recently received a $15,000 grant from the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute to create printed literature designed to educate Long Island’s young people about the potential health consequences associated with heroin and other opiate use, including HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and overdose. The materials will be completed in early 2010 and distributed throughout the year in schools, at sporting events and in community settings.