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HIV transmission and substance abuse

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The month of March is the Month of Youth Against Aids (MYAA) under the theme “Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS related deaths”.

This month will be addressing the link between substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.

Substance abuse has been identified as one of the key drivers of HIV transmission in Botswana.

This week we look at the story of three young ladies: Bosa, Les and Ore.

Bosa, Les, and Ore have been best friends for as long as they could remember.

They knew each other very well, and shared a lot of interests including their drug of choice, crack cocaine (Le-dyna, dynamite, rock).

The three friends had information about HIV, however when it came to getting their next hit, they threw all that information out of the window.

The ladies often indulged in sex with men to get crack. One day Bosa fell ill and her doctor suggested an HIV test.

She tested HIV positive. While reflecting about her behaviour since her last negative HIV test, she realised that the only behaviour associated with contracting HIV was through the unprotected sex she had with a crack dealer.

When she had the unprotected sex, Bosa was desperate to get her next hit because she was experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Bosa testing HIV positive made her friends think about their own status. . Bosa suggested they go for HIV Counselling and Testing.

Myth 1: The need to obtain substances to feed an addiction, can feel stronger than the consequences of unsafe sex putting one at risk of HIV transmission.

Truth: If you are dependent on substances you will experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of not taking the substance.

Examples of withdrawals include headache, heightened cravings, extreme sadness, anger, shakiness and nausea.

These can be very uncomfortable and the only solution is to seek for professional help than transactional sex, which puts one at risk of HIV infection and is a temporary solution.

Myth 2: A single risky sexual encounter cannot result in one getting infected with HIV.

Truth: A sense of invulnerability and risk taking behaviour can be a result of substance abuse.

While under the influence of substances one is more likely to engage in unsafe sex practices and therefore be at the risk of HIV transmission.

This is because substances affect part of the brain that controls behaviour, judgment and reasoning thus influencing the choices we make while under the influence.

Substances lower ones inhibitions and therefore the sense of vulnerability is lost which can contribute to engaging in risky sexual behaviours.

Individuals wishing to get more information on issues related to substance abuse can contact BOSASNet to speak to a counsellor in confidence, on 395 9119 or 72659891.

You can also visit our website www.bosasnet.com or find us on Facebook.