Recognizing 25 new HIV cases in Boston among injection drug users is a chilling reminder of history repeating itself (“Officials scramble to halt HIV spike,” Metro, Jan. 9). These cases join the 182 individuals in Massachusetts who were diagnosed between 2015 and 2019.
If we forget lessons learned about HIV-prevention strategies, we do so at our own peril. The HIV/AIDS epidemic mobilized colleagues in public health, medical care, research, and community advocacy. Effective strategies included education about safer sex, access to condoms, harm reduction for IV drug use, and availability of HIV testing.
As the spike in HIV coincides with the opioid epidemic, we don’t need to reinvent any wheels. We have a public health infrastructure, practice-based evidence, health resources, and activist groups prepared to address this double epidemic. Boston-area organizations such as Fenway Health, Victory Programs, and Healing Our Community Collaborative have provided critical support for promoting prevention strategies and are linked with resources to address and treat opioid use.
Time is not on our side. The time to act is now. A powerful slogan of the early days of the HIV epidemic asserted that “Silence = Death.” As we prepare to address the compounded opioid/HIV epidemic, we are reminded that our inaction can result in needless harm.