The Value of HIV Education in Addiction Treatment and Recovery

The terms ‘HIV’ and ‘AIDS’ have struck fear in countless hearts throughout the world for many years. Due to the inability of the body to rid itself of the HIV virus and the AIDS that often follows, the virus and disease continue to concern people. Since HIV and AIDS are such scary and deadly diseases, HIV education is very important. This is especially true for individuals that are more susceptible to contracting HIV or AIDS, including people who engage in sexually risky behavior or those who suffer from addiction.

What is HIV?

‘HIV’ is an acronym for the human immunodeficiency virus. This virus attacks the body’s immune system until the human body can barely function. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for HIV.

Individuals can contract HIV through sexual relations, the use of shared needles, or contact with infected blood. HIV and AIDS can quickly infect numerous people as individuals come in contact with other individuals’ bodily fluids through unprotected sex or the sharing of injection equipment.

Individuals who suffer from addiction or know others who struggle with it should certainly receive HIV education. Learning more about this virus and the way it affects people can help to prevent health issues and the transmission of the virus.

detailed closeup of the AIDS virus

What is the Difference Between HIV and AIDS?

Many people use the terms HIV and AIDS interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between the two. Knowing the difference between HIV and AIDS could be what makes an individual be able to live much longer with one of the illnesses. That’s why HIV AIDS education is so important.

HIV is the initial immunodeficiency virus that a person can contract from another individual. People contract HIV when participating in unprotected sex, abusing drugs using shared needles, and having blood to blood contact. As stated earlier, HIV breaks down a person’s immune system.

Once a person with HIV is constantly getting sick and has an immune system that’s completely  broken down, that person has likely developed AIDS.

The acronym ‘AIDS’ stands for acquired immunodeficiency system. AIDS is very similar to HIV in that it breaks down the body’s immune system. The key difference between HIV and AIDS is that AIDS is the last and most severe stage of HIV. Therefore, when an individual contracts AIDS, his or her sickness becomes obvious.

In fact, individuals that are in the AIDS stage of HIV have such damaged immune systems that they suffer from sickness and infections often. This is due to the fact that people receive AIDS diagnoses when their CD4 cell count drops below 200cells/mm.

Individuals who suffer from AIDS may have higher viral loads than those with HIV. As a result, those who suffer from AIDS tend to only have about 3 years left to live. On the other hand, some people who have HIV who could go untreated for around 10 years before finally starting to notice that something is wrong.

Health Complications Caused by HIV/AIDS

Once individuals receive AIDS and HIV education, they’ll realize that HIV and AIDS can lead to numerous other health issues. This is because HIV/AIDS breaks down a person’s immune system. This makes it easier for people to contract other illnesses and diseases.

For example, viral hepatitis is another very common illness amongst individuals that exhibit unprotected sexual behavior. Therefore, people who already suffer from HIV or AIDS and engage in risky sexual behavior are even more likely to contract viral hepatitis than before.

Individuals who suffer from HIV or AIDS are also likely to contract other illnesses that normally wouldn’t affect a healthy person. Additionally, the severity of any illness that a person with HIV or AIDS contracts will likely be more intense than normal. For example, a common cold that would go away within a couple of days for a healthy person, may linger for a long time and cause a person with HIV or AIDS to develop a high fever and possibly contract other illnesses.


Individuals who suffer from HIV/AIDS are also at a greater risk to develop different kinds of cancers. This is once again, due to the attack that HIV and AIDS have on the body’s immune system. In fact, HIV primarily attacks immune cells. People with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to developing lymphoma, or cancer of the white blood cells.

A rare type of cancer that is fairly common amongst people with HIV/AIDS is Kaposi’s sarcoma. This type of cancer affects the blood vessels in ways that cause individuals to develop red lesions that are often associated with AIDS.

Other types of cancers that people with HIV or AIDS contract at high rates include Hodgkin disease and testicular seminoma. Individuals with HIV/AIDS also often struggle with kidney disease and extreme weight loss.

The Connection Between HIV/AIDS and Substance Addiction

When receiving HIV education in addiction treatment and recovery, one will learn that HIV/AIDS has a strong connection to substance abuse and addiction. People who abuse substances also have a higher chance of contracting HIV or AIDS as a result of sharing needles or engaging in unprotected sexual activity.

Alcohol Abuse and HIV/AIDS

Abusing alcohol specifically causes a person’s immune system to weaken. This increases the susceptibility of developing HIV/AIDS for those who take part in risky sexual behavior and drug use while under the influence of alcohol.

Recovering individuals who don’t suffer from HIV or AIDS can use this information as motivation to not relapse. People who already suffer from HIV or AIDS should use this information as motivation to avoid alcohol abuse in order to keep their immune system as healthy as they possibly can.

Furthermore, individuals who are HIV positive must upkeep a strict medication regimen to keep their illnesses from progressing. Thus, such individuals should not drink while using all of those medications if they want the medications to work effectively.

Another reason why individuals who suffer from HIV or AIDS shouldn’t drink excessively is that many of the drugs that help treat HIV, including antiretroviral drugs, carry a risk of liver toxicity. This makes it harmful for individuals that suffer from HIV or AIDS to drink excessive amounts of alcohol because alcohol abuse damages the liver.

Abusing alcohol while also taking HIV medication will make it likely that one will develop severe liver damage. Such extensive bodily damage will then take a toll on the body of a person that already suffers from HIV or AIDS. In fact, if the liver damage is severe enough, it may be the thing that causes a person with HIV or AIDS to lose his or her life.

Effects of Smoking on Individuals Who Suffer from HIV/AIDS

People who smoke excessively are already susceptible to mouth, throat, and lung infections. Thus, smoking while suffering from HIV/AIDS only increases the chance of a person developing those diseases. This is especially true since individuals that suffer from HIV or AIDS contain weak immune systems.

Individuals who smoke while suffering from HIV or AIDS are also likely to develop pneumonia. With such weakened immune systems, developing pneumonia while suffering from HIV/AIDS will also likely cause individuals to need hospitalization, or worse, die.

Other respiratory diseases that people who smoke while suffering from HIV or AIDS will likely contract include thrush or leukoplakia. Individuals that smoke while suffering from HIV or AIDS are even more inclined to develop heart disease, osteoporosis, strokes, or heart attacks. Such serious health conditions can lead to fatal results. HIV education programs can help to prevent these results and help people who are working to work through the effects of addiction and HIV/AIDS.

Effects of Illicit Drug Use on Individuals Who Suffer from HIV/AIDS

Illicit drug use through needles is often the reason why people contract HIV or AIDS in the first place. Many other people contract HIV or AIDS when exhibiting risky sexual behavior while under the influence of illicit drugs such as marijuana and street or club drugs. Thus, individuals that want to lower their chances of contracting HIV or AIDS due to drug use should remain sober and receive HIV education while in addiction treatment and recovery.

Illicit drug use also often leads to complications. As a result, people that use illicit drugs often receive poor treatment when ill due to their drug use habits. The use of illegal drugs can make it even more difficult to receive HIV/AIDS treatment and antiretroviral therapies. This is because of the many serious consequences that illicit drugs can cause in someone with HIV or AIDS.

Suffering from HIV or AIDS only worsens the treatment that individuals that are suffering from illnesses or addiction due to illicit drug use receive as well. This is because many treatment centers won’t accept individuals that suffer from HIV or AIDS.

Receive HIV Education At Grace Land Recovery

Here at Grace Land Recovery, we understand how deeply connected HIV is to substance abuse and addiction. That’s why we offer HIV education as one of our clinical schedule groups.

Through our HIV education programs, we hope to help give addiction treatment patients the knowledge that they need to motivate themselves to maintain sobriety long-term rather than relapse and fall into old addictive habits that could lead to the contraction of HIV or AIDS.

To learn more about Grace Land Recovery and our other specializations, business services, treatment modalities, and clinical schedule groups, contact us today. Our phone lines are available 24/7 and our offices are open Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.