Regular cocaine use increases the risk of HIV infection, say scientists. Researchers at the University of California have found that cocaine changes the way CD4 cells work, making them more susceptible to infection.
“This study shows that under the same transmission conditions, drug exposure enhances infection through a collective of biological changes,” said UCLA assistant professor of medicine, Dr Dimitrious Vatakis.
Vatakis and his team have discovered that cocaine use increases the number of CD4 cells in the body. It is these cells that become infected by the human immunodeficiency virus. Therefore, the odds of becoming infected increase.
While the study sheds interesting light on the link between cocaine use and HIV infection, it was only a small animal model which did not fully recreate real-life settings. Research is ongoing to determine how cocaine use might affect HIV transmission in vaginal and anal tissues; how PrEP and PEP can be affected by exposure to cocaine; and how cocaine alters the body’s immune defences.