Yale School of Public Health assistant professor Dr. Gregg Gonsalves has encountered many challenges fighting the human immuncodficiency virus (HIV) epidemic over the past 30 years. What he sees now has him as concerned as he has ever been.
A rise in injection drug use tied to the nation’s raging opioid epidemic is causing a surge in new cases of HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV), said Dr. Gonsalves, an assistant professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases) and a member of the school’s distinguished Public Health Modeling Unit.
From 2004 to 2014, HCV rose by nearly 400 percent among young Americans age 18-29, while hospital admission for opioid injection soared by 622 percent for the same age group. The resulting syndemic has created a potentially deadly public health triple-threat of three interlocking epidemics – opioid use disorder, HIV and HCV.
“It’s a perfect storm of death and disability for young men and women across the U.S.,” Dr. Gonsalves said. “How many lives can be saved moving forward is going to depend on how we respond. Our current approach, which is to wait until an epidemic breaks out and then swing into action, is entirely inadequate. We must do better.”Friday Letter Submission, Publish on January 31