The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a new director, Dr. Robert Redfield. While his recent appointment led many people to voice their reservations, most individuals will find it hard to argue with the Redfield goals. In Dr. Redfield’s first interview, he expressed a desire to tackle substance use, suicide, and HIV/AIDS, The Wall St. Journal reports. The three public health crises are, the CDC Director points out, connected. He says the CDC is ramping up its effort to confront opioid use disorder, track overdoses in real-time, and develop guidelines for prescribing opioids for acute pain.
Dr. Redfield reveals that he has a close family member who has dealt with opioid addiction, according to the article. With that in mind, it stands to reason that he will stress a compassionate approach to addressing the epidemic stealing over a hundred American lives each day. He goes on to talk about the dangers of stigma and thinks that nation’s past experiences with the HIV/AIDS epidemic might provide insight.
“I think part of my understanding of the epidemic has come from seeing it not just as a public-health person and not just as a doctor,” he said. “It is something that has impacted me also at a personal level. Stigma is the enemy of public health,” he said, adding that it’s important to find “a path to destigmatize” opioid abuse. “We were able to do it to some degree for HIV, and I think pretty successfully, but it’s not over.”
Opioids and Disease Transmission
IV drug use and sharing needles have resulted in more people contracting life-threatening health conditions such as hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. In recent years, a significant number of people in specific areas are victims of disease transmission owing to the American opioid addiction epidemic. The spike in new cases of mostly incurable diseases has led many lawmakers to rethink their former positions on needle exchanges.
Before Mike Pence became Vice President, he was the Governor of Indiana and, as it turns out, a long-time opponent of clean needle exchanges. He is on record stating his belief that giving people syringes supported drug use. Then Pence was tested when an HIV outbreak sprung up in a rural part of his state, around 100 new cases of the incurable disease. Two months later—after pleas from local, state and federal health officials—Pence signed an executive order allowing syringes to be distributed in the affected county, The New York Times reports. The result, new HIV cases plateaued!
One thing that many opponents of clean needle exchanges do not realize is that aside from mitigating the risk of spreading infection, the services provide a valuable opportunity for outreach counselors to discuss recovery with addicts. Such openings for talking about treatment are far and few between, public health officials would be wise to remind needle exchange opponents of that fact. During Dr. Redfield’s interview, he shares his thoughts about pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. He believes that addiction treatment services, a form of PrEP, are the best means of preventing disease transmission. He boldly states that by getting infected people into treatment and off drugs that, “HIV/AIDS can be ended as an epidemic in the U.S. in “seven years or maybe a little longer.”
Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat if you or a loved one is struggling with an opioid use disorder. Our skilled team of professionals can help you adopt a program of recovery that will forever change your life for the better.