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Drug Abusers Treatments Reduce AIDS Deaths

Drug Abusers Treatments Reduce AIDS Deaths

In 2009, 3% of Polk County's 100 new HIV diagnoses were attributed to injection drug use. Though the proportion for IDU-related cases has declined from its 1980s peak, IDUs today remain a hard-to-reach population.

"We don't see that many shooting galleries like we did," said Keith Boyd, HIV/AIDS program specialist at the county Health Department. The department targets ZIP codes with high IDU prevalence for free HIV testing and counseling, and workers visit homeless shelters and a methadone clinic.

Tim Dannemiller began a long struggle with drug addiction in his teens, continuing through his service in Vietnam and beyond. Dannemiller was diagnosed HIV-positive 25 years ago, having initially not worried about what he considered "a gay disease." After a series of failed detoxification efforts, he found success in a 10-month program at Fort Lauderdale-based Faith Farm Ministries.

"By the time I was in my 20s, I knew I was an addict and I was OK with that," said Dannemiller, who now provides outreach in Florida for Straight from the Heart, which focuses on HIV prevention information and support. He also attends a Christian 12-step program in Lakeland.

One program participant said he would use his own needle in venues where IDUs gathered to inject, and then set it down somewhere. Other IDUs did the same, never intending to share needles; however, less caution was used in picking needles up. "You'd think, 'Which one is mine,'" he said. "Sometimes you'd ask or sometimes you'd just shrug and take it."

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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