CHENNAI, INDIA–David, 37, injects heroin daily–a schedule that has never varied for the past 15 years. Despite perpetually running short on cash to buy his fix, he has never been desperate enough, he says, to share needles.
“I know how HIV goes from one body to another,” David says. “I’ve seen many friends get sick and die like that.”
Still, David admits that when he finally faces the dire choice between buying a new needle or heroin, his addiction will overcome his fear of HIV.
The study shows that efforts to help drug users tend to be at best “inconsistent, too small and infrequent” to make a dent. If an urgent effort is not made to expand programs that help addicts, the study found, there is a strong possibility that intravenous drug use combined with paid sex could make the HIV epidemic in India far worse.
Needle exchange programs, which have proven to reduce the rate of infection among addicts in Europe and the United States, are almost non-existent in India. The Indian government notes that such programs are “frowned upon in India because of ethical and moral implications” of appearing to condone drug abuse.
That political attitude leaves David with few choices. He depends on his 68-year-old father’s meager pension to survive, and as his father’s health dwindles so do the days of not sharing needles.