Drugs, alcohol and HIV: It’s all about extremes

Shaun Watson
Clinical Nurse Specialist (HIV Community)

Themes, themes, themes. Deciding the themes we select for HIV Nursing can be an arduous task. Over the past 11 years we have exhausted many avenues, but surprisingly we’ve never really hit upon drugs and alcohol. Within my role, as for many of you, the effects of drugs and alcohol for those living with HIV cannot be underestimated. From the part they play in the potential transmission of HIV, to problems they can cause around adherence, health and lifestyle, the use of stimulants and depressants can have wide-reaching effects. For this issue, I wanted to concentrate on extremes as, surprisingly, there is very little research into the effects of an odd glass of Chardonnay upon HIV. Excessive use of street, recreational and party drugs continues to cause major problems within healthcare and most of us are experiencing the challenges of those who are using drugs and alcohol. As nurses, we can be terribly practical and may want to provide solutions for patients who don’t necessarily feel they have problems. ‘ChemSex’ has really come to the fore in the past few years with some services really feeling the force of this issue. But what leads some patients to become addicted to these substances and what, if anything, can we do about it? Read more. . .