Drug Use and Risk of HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Among Thai Adolescents and Young Adults – A Review

Shamsudeen YAU, Archin Songthap


Drug use in Thailand and its accompanying consequences, which are most injurious to adolescents and young adults, are uncharacteristically high. The Office of the Narcotics Control Board estimated that the number of people using methamphetamine had dramatically increased by close to thirteen folds from 1993 to 2002; one of the alarming figures that stimulated the government to initiate laws to fight drug use, starting with the war on drugs in 2003. Methamphetamine is the most commonly used drug which is mostly taken orally rather than intravenously. Other drugs such yaa baa (a combined mixture of caffeine and methamphetamine), amphetamine, heroin and midazolam, are also widely used either smoked or orally. Of the various consequences of adolescents involvement in drug use, the government has particularly paid due attention to the inarguably increased risk of HIV/STIs among this population. The risk of HIV among injecting drug users ranges from six to eleven times more than in non-injecting drug users. Other sexually transmitted infections, such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), are also prevalent among both injecting and non-injecting drug users; Chlamydia was the most prevalent while HIV was the least. However, HSV and Chlamydia were more predominant among women while HBV was more among men. While the incidence of HIV infection is not associated with the type of drug injected, the risk of HIV is higher in methamphetamine users among whom sharing injecting equipment is characteristically higher than in users of other types of drug. Drug injecting history, in addition to chained smoking and being a binge drinker or a former drinker were behavioural factors linked to HIV prevalence. Furthermore, the frequency of injection and injection equipment sharing, history of sexual abuse, and selling sex were also risk factors for incidence of HIV among users. The aim of this paper, therefore, is to provide a detailed summary of the hitherto risk of HIV/STIs among Thai adolescents and young adults who use drugs and to further provide constructive suggestions to mitigate the increasing vulnerability of this population to HIV/STIs.

Keywords: Drug Use, HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Adolescents, Young Adults.

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