Target Groups for Preventing AIDS Among Intravenous Drug Users

Don C.Des Jarlais, Samuel R. Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has rapidly become the most serious medical consequence of injecting illicit drugs. Its potential impact on intravenous (IV) drug use is enormous. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, also known as HTLV‐III and LAV), the virus that causes AIDS, appears, usually, to lead to lifelong infection. At present there is no effective treatment, and the treatments under development may require lifelong antiviral therapy. Since most of the antibody produced in response to HIV infection does not neutralize the virus, and since there is substantial genetic variation in the virus, it will be difficult to develop a vaccine. Even after vaccines are developed, testing their safety and efficacy will be formidable problems. Until either effective treatment or vaccines are developed, control of the epidemic among IV drug users must be attempted through behavior change/prevention efforts. In this paper we will review the epidemiology of AIDS among IV drug users and characteristics of the IV drug‐use subculture relevant to prevention efforts. We will then identify different target groups for these prevention efforts, present available evidence about behavior change in these groups, and then briefly discuss how to prevent transmission of HIV to heterosexual partners who are not themselves IV drug users and to the children of IV drug users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-268
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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