Illicit drug use and HIV risk in the Dominican Republic: Tourism areas create drug use opportunities

Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Jane J. Lee, Yumary Ruiz, Holly Hagan, Marlyn Delva, Zahira Quiñones, Alexandra Kamler, Gabriel Robles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the Caribbean has the second highest global human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence, insufficient attention has been paid to contributing factors of the region's elevated risk. Largely neglected is the potential role of drugs in shaping the Caribbean HIV/acquired immune deficiency syndrome epidemic. Caribbean studies have almost exclusively focused on drug transportation and seldom acknowledged local user economies and drug-related health and social welfare consequences. While tourism is consistently implicated within the Caribbean HIV epidemic, less is known about the intersection of drugs and tourism. Tourism areas represent distinct ecologies of risk often characterised by sex work, alcohol consumption and population mixing between lower and higher risk groups. Limited understanding of availability and usage of drugs in countries such as the Dominican Republic (DR), the Caribbean country with the greatest tourist rates, presents barriers to HIV prevention. This study addresses this gap by conducting in-depth interviews with 30 drug users in Sosúa, a major sex tourism destination of the DR. A two-step qualitative data analysis process was utilised and interview transcripts were systematically coded using a well-defined thematic codebook. Results suggest three themes: (1) local demand shifts drug routes to tourism areas, (2) drugs shape local economies and (3) drug use facilitates HIV risk behaviours in tourism areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-330
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 16 2015


  • Dominican Republic
  • drug use opportunity
  • illicit drugs
  • risk behaviours
  • tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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