Puerto Rico has one of the highest HIV/Aids infection rates in the United States, and more than 50% of these cases are caused by intravenous drug use. HIV can be spread by sharing syringes and drug equipment for injectable drug use. The reuse of an HIV blood-contaminated needle or syringe by another person has a high risk of HIV transmission since HIV infected blood can be injected directly into the bloodstream.
It is estimated that there are about 60,000 intravenous drug users in Puerto Rico. A survey by the government itself also estimated that there is a treatment gap of 92%, with only a small portion of drug-users receiving detoxification services. There isn’t easy access to clean needles in Puerto Rico which is why many addicts reuse or share them. Due to a lack of funding to combat the issue from the government, nonprofit organizations such as El Punto en la MontaÃ±a are attempting to pick up the slack. El Punto en la MontaÃ±a is a group that offers medical supplies to addicts who live in rural areas that are out of the reach of government services. Founder Joseph Carroll Miranda and a small team of volunteers deliver clean needles, juice, snacks, and educational pamphlets to addicts every week. Addicts are also put into detoxification programs if possible.
Watch the video about Puerto Rico’s public health crisis below (due to graphic nature of video, viewer discretion is advised):
More on Puerto Rico’s Public Health Crisis:
The Guardian | Puerto Rico’s ignored public health crisis: ‘I’ve lost a lot of friends to drugs’