Research in San Francisco and New York indicates that drug users who
inject cocaine are spreading HIV faster than heroin addicts. Cocaine
injecters may use syringes several times an hour, while a typical heroin
user shoots up much less often. Drug abuse experts say the higher the
frequency of injection, the greater the chance of virus transmission.
Dr. Samuel R. Friedman, testifying recently before the New York State
Assembly's Health Committee, said, "If there's a shortage of needles,
they're going to have a fast round robin" of needle sharing.
Contaminated needles, as well as sexual intercourse, are prime methods of
spreading the virus. The lack of an effective treatment for cocaine
addiction presents the biggest problem to those seeking to stem the
spread of HIV infection. Heroin addicts in methadone treatment programs
sometimes switch to cocaine use, experts said. Prevention programs, which
previously stressed the dangers of heroin injection, are now focusing on
cocaine as well.