December 1, 2010
NIDA Director, Dr. Nora D. Volkow

In the United States, approximately 1 million people currently live with HIV, and 56,000 new cases occur each year, an incidence rate that has held steady for the past 10 years. Internationally, the pandemic has been devastating, with an estimated 33 million current infections and about 2 million deaths every year.

From the time it began, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been closely linked with drug abuse and addiction; indeed, drug abuse treatment is HIV prevention, in that it reduces the behaviors that put people at risk. In this country, several groups are especially vulnerable, including African Americans, drug users, and people in prison or otherwise involved in the criminal justice system, where both HIV and drug use disorders are over-represented. Internationally, in regions like Central Asia and Eastern Europe, the disease is raging, driven largely by injection drug use. Improved access both to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and to proven drug abuse treatments, such as buprenorphine and methadone, stand to have a major health impact, particularly when populations at highest risk are targeted.

To that end, participants at the 2010 AIDS Conference held in Vienna Austria in July 2010 and attended by more than 20,000 people from all over the world, called for transforming the public health by increasing access to drug abuse treatment (to reduce HIV risk) and expanding coverage of HAART therapy. Innovative NIDA researchers are rising to these formidable challenges by demonstrating the effectiveness of drug abuse treatment—including medications for treating opioid addiction—and promoting their adoption globally. NIDA is also supporting research to develop and test strategies to expand HAART coverage, shown to reduce viral load and incidence at the population level. Known as "Seek, Test, Treat, and Retain," this initiative seeks out individuals who have not recently been tested, initiates HAART therapy for those who test positive, and monitors their progress over time.

To commemorate World AIDS Day 2010, interviews with several of NIDA's top scientists are posted here, along with recent NIDA-supported research findings on HIV, drug abuse, and their intersection. As in previous years, we will also display a portion of the AIDS quilt in the lobby of our Neuroscience Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to remember those who have died and to remind our staff and visitors of the importance of research aimed at tackling HIV disease and its devastating consequences.


Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

For more information on HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse: