Substance Abuse and Brain Injuries: HIV/AIDS and Brain Injury

Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation
Substance Abuse and Brain Injuries: HIV/AIDS and Brain Injury

HIV stands for Human lmmunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that destroys a person's immune system and causes AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. A person is diagnosed with AIDS after his or her immune system has been weakened by HIV. A person can get HIV by sharing "dirty" or used needles with other drug users, coming in contact with semen and vaginal fluid through unprotected sex, and contact with blood. Women with HIV can also infect their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.

Will my brain injury make me more at risk to get AIDS?

You cannot tell by looking at someone if they have the HIV (AIDS virus). People with disabilities are just as likely to get HIV as people without disabilities. Following brain injury, a person may also have difficulties with making decisions, predicting consequences of their actions, and saying “no” in dangerous situations. These problems can also put them at a greater risk for HIV infection.

What about drug use and AIDS?

When people use alcohol and other drugs they take risks they would not take when they are clean and sober. When these risks involve sharing needles and having unprotected sex it can result in getting HIV.

It is recommended that people with brain injuries not use alcohol and other mood-altering drugs because it can affect judgment, thinking and the ability to make wise decisions. After using drugs and alcohol it is easier to be pressured into having unprotected sex.

What are MY chances of getting AIDS?

There is almost no risk in getting HIV if people do not have sex and if they do no t share needles with other drug users. If a person chooses to have sex, there are ways to have safer sex.

If I have sex, how can I protect myself?

Condoms - if used properly they are very effective in preventing spread of the AIDS virus. It is best to use latex condoms with a reservoir-tip to collect the semen.

Lubricants - water-based lubricants like K-Y Jelly or Astro Glide should be used. Avoid oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline.

REALITY Condo - a female condom that is similar to a diaphragm.

Rubber Gloves - use on the hands while engaging in sexual activity with an exchange of bodily fluids when there are breaks in the skin. Rubber gloves can also be cut and used between the mouth and vagina when engaging in oral sex with a female.

Am I HIV Positive?

HIV can be detected through a blood test. There are two methods of testing: Confidential and Anonymous. For Confidential testing your name and address are given at the time of testing. Results are given to you or a person you authorize to receive that information. With Anonymous testing you do not give your name and address. Results can only be given to you with an identifying number that you are given at the time of the test.

Where can I go for HIV testing?

National AIDS Hotline
(English language)
24 hours, 7 days a week

National AIDS Hotline
(Spanish language)
8:00 am - 2:00 am, Eastern Time,
7 days a week

National AIDS Hotline (TTY-TDD)
10:00 am - 10:00 pm, Eastern Time,
Monday through Friday

What facts are important for me to remember?

  1. Help is available.
  2. Practice Safe Sex.
  3. Use condoms.
  4. Don't share needles with other drug users.
  5. Don't use alcohol and other drugs.
  6. Don't have sex with many different partners.

Prepared with financial assistance from Federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT Block Grant Funds), Franklin County ADAMH Services Board, and ODADAS to the TBI Network.

Additional funding was provided by Grant H 235L20001 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation.

This document is available in printed form by contacting the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation, 614-293-3802.

Posted on BrainLine November 4, 2008.

From the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation. Reprinted with permission.