How Decriminalizing Drugs Might Affect the Spread of HIV in Tijuana

Richard Branson and experts debate the losing war on drugs — and its victims — at UC San Diego event —

As the 1960s came to a close, Richard Nixon famously declared a “war on drugs.” They were “public enemy number one,” the president said. Their menace demanded a full-throated federal effort of interdiction, eradication and incarceration.

The goal: No more illegal drugs. Period.

The reality: The war still rages. There are now more illegal drugs produced and consumed than ever.

If the war on drugs were one of his businesses, said Sir Richard Branson, the renowned British magnate, philanthropist and activist, it would have been shut down within a year. “It hasn’t worked at all, ever, but governments continue to ignore the facts, creating untold misery. Drug use isn’t a criminal problem. It’s a health problem.”
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Branson, who has become a major voice in the global drug policy debate, visited UC San Diego last week to participate in a panel discussion on global drug decriminalization and Tijuana’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is fueled in part by widespread drug use, notably the sharing of needles to inject black tar heroin. … Read the Full Feature Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Steffanie Strathdee, PhD

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD

The UC San Diego Global Health Institute (GHI) was a co-sponsor of the event. GHI Director Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, was moderator and host of the event.

Dr. Strathdee is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences, Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the Division of Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine.

New Video Series Chronicles AIDS Epidemic in Tijuana

“HIV/SIDA: The Epidemic in Tijuana” focuses on UC San Diego researchers’ efforts to track and prevent the spread of HIV among the city’s most at-risk populations —

The new documentary “HIV/SIDA: The Epidemic in Tijuana” offers an unflinching look at the challenges facing researchers from the University of California, San Diego as they attempt to identify and treat people who inject drugs, sex workers, transgender women and others who are at high risk for HIV infection in Tijuana. The program, which was shot over two years, premieres Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. on UCSD-TV and can be viewed at www.uctv.tv/hiv-sida. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


The film features the efforts of Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, her Division of Global Public Health colleagues and a multidisciplinary, multinational team of medical professionals to trace and arrest the spread of AIDS in Tijuana.

Dr. Strathdee is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences, Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the Division of Global Public Health at UC San Diego.

The four-part documentary, based on the book Tomorrow Is a Long Time by Malcolm Linton and Jon Cohen, premiered on UCSD-TV on October 5. It was supported by funding from the Ford Foundation.

Find more about the documentary here: HIV/SIDA: The Epidemic in Tijuana – UCSD-TV – University of California Television.

Drs. Richard Garfein, Antonino Catanzaro and Coworkers Report More Rapid Tests for Drug-Resistant TB

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have documented the accuracy of three new tests for more rapidly diagnosing drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis (TB), which are much harder and more expensive to treat and which, experts say, represent a major threat to global public health. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


DrAntoninoCatanzaro_100x122

Department of Medicine co-authors of the report are emeritus professor Antonino Catanzaro, MD, of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine; and professor Richard Garfein, PhD, MPH, and associate professor Timothy C. Rodwell, MD, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Global Public Health.

Dr. Richard GarfeinPictured are Drs. Catanzaro (top left) and Garfein (left).

Read the study report here.

High Rates of Violence, HIV Infection for Adolescents in Sex Trade on U.S.-Mexico Border

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that more than one in four female sex workers in two Mexican cities on the U.S. border entered the sex trade younger than age 18; one in eight before their 16th birthday. These women were more than three times more likely to become infected with HIV than those who started sex work as adults. They were also three times more likely to be violently coerced to engage in sex with male clients and seven times less likely to use a condom during their first month in the sex trade.

The study is published August 4 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center


The study comes from the Division of Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine. Jay G. Silverman, PhD, professor of medicine and director of research for the Center on Gender Equity and Health, is lead author.

The senior author is Kimberly Brouwer, PhD, associate professor of medicine and leader in the Scientific Working Group on HIV Prevention at the UC San Diego Center for AIDS Research.

Read the article full text (UC San Diego only)

At the Nexus of Substance Abuse and HIV

UC San Diego Researcher Wins Major Award to Study New Treatments and Preventions —

Dan Werb, PhD, an internationally noted epidemiologist at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has been named one of four inaugural recipients of the Avenir Award, a prestigious $1.5 million research grant from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

Binational Police Program in Tijuana Targets HIV Reduction

Effort also aims to improve safety of officers —

Research consistently shows that policing practices, such as confiscating or breaking needles, are key factors in the HIV epidemic among persons who inject drugs. Police officers themselves are also at risk of acquiring HIV or viral hepatitis if they experience needle-stick injuries on the job — a significant source of anxiety and staff turn-over.

A binational team from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission, Mexico Section has launched a new research project aimed at promoting prevention of HIV and other blood-borne infections. The effort is led by Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, professor and director of the UC San Diego Global Health Initiative, Leo Beletsky, JD, MPH, associate professor, and Gudelia Rangel, PhD, deputy general director for migrant health and executive secretary of the Mexico Section of the Mexico-United States Border Health Commission, in partnership with the Tijuana Police Department and Police Academy. The binational team will offer and evaluate Proyecto ESCUDO (Project SHIELD), a police education program designed to align law enforcement and HIV prevention in Tijuana. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Global Public Health Division Video Wins 2nd Prize in Video Challenge Competition for UC Global Health Day

A video made by doctoral candidate Jaime Arredondo and other members of the Division of Global Public Health has won second prize in the Video Challenge Competition for UC Global Health Day.

The video, “The Forgotten: Clinica del Bordo,” takes viewers to the San Diego-Tijuana border, where Arredondo and many other members of the global public health division provide wound care, HIV testing and other basic health services to people who live in the Tijuana River Canal.

Canal Wound Clinic, or Clinica del Bordo, is an outreach effort of UC San Diego’s NIDA-funded Proyecto el Cuete IV program, Impact of Drug Policy Reform on the HIV Risk Environment Among IDUs in Tijuana.

“This brief video embodies our division’s philosophy of integrating research, training and service to improve the health of our border community,” said Division of Global Public Health chief Steffanie Strathdee, PhD.

“I am very proud that our work is upheld by our students, as they are our next generation of health providers and prevention scientists.”

Dr. Strathdee is Harold Simon Professor, Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences; Chief, Division of Global Public Health and Director of the UC San Diego Global Health Initiative.

Jaime Arredondo is an AIDS International Training and Research (AITRP) fellow.

The video is here:

Doctorate Program Will Study Substance Abuse and Its Consequences

Collaboration between UC San Diego and SDSU among first in nation —

A new Joint Doctoral Program (JDP) in Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use has been launched by the Division of Global Public Health in the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and San Diego State University’s School of Social Work. The program will emphasize research devoted to studying the use and misuse of alcohol and drugs – and related social and health consequences. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Steffanie Strathdee

Dr. Strathdee.

Co-directors of the program are Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, and Maria Luisa Zúñiga, PhD.

Dr. Strathdee is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences, head of the UC San Diego Global Health Initiative and Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the Division of Global Public Health at UC San Diego.

Dr. Zúñiga is associate professor and behavioral epidemiologist in the Division of Global Public Health and associate professor in the San Diego State University School of Social Work.

Read the joint doctoral program catalog description

Dr. Jamila Stockman to Receive Linda Saltzman New Investigator Award

Dr. Jamila Stockman

Dr. Jamila Stockman

Jamila Stockman, PhD, MPH, has been selected to receive the Linda Saltzman New Investigator Award, which recognizes a single outstanding new investigator in the field of gender-based violence and health.

Dr. Stockman, an infectious disease epidemiologist, is assistant professor in the Division of Global Public Health. She focuses her work on intimate partner violence (IPV) and substance abuse among low-income, underserved, vulnerable women.


Read the UC San Diego Newsroom press release


Said Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, chief of the Division of Global Public Health, “This is, without question, the most prestigious scholarly award in this field of study. Dr. Stockman’s selection indicates that she, at a very early stage in her career, is recognized as a national leader in this area.

“It is a true mark of excellence for the Division of Global Public Health, the Department of Medicine and the Center on Gender Equity and Health at UC San Diego to include Dr. Stockman among our faculty,” she said.

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences & Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the Division of Global Public Health and Director of the Global Health Initiative.

Gender-based violence is increasingly recognized as central to health and development globally, Strathdee said.

Dr. Stockman holds a PhD in Epidemiology with a focus on infectious diseases from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Master’s degree in public health from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. She is an alumna of the UC San Diego National Center of Leadership in Academic Medicine.

She currently holds a UC San Diego Clinical and Translational Research Institute Academic-Community Partnership Pilot Grant for her project, “The Role of Peer Navigators and Social Support in the HIV Care Continuum: Perceptions of HIV-Positive Women.”

For the Linda Saltzman New Investigator Award, the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control solicits nominations from senior investigators in the field and convenes a committee of experts to select an outstanding individual to receive this national award once every two years.  Candidates for the award have 2-10 years of experience in their field.

Preventing Drug-Abuse-Related HIV in Tijuana by Educating Police

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee

The NIH Record recently highlighted Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, Dr. Leo Beletsky, and their binational team for their efforts to prevent drug abuse-related HIV in Tijuana, Mexico, by changing the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of the Tijuana police.

With support from the Open Society Institute and the UC San Diego Center for AIDS Research, the pilot phase of the project taught Tijuana police instructors how to prevent needle stick injuries by proper syringe handling, which advises them against breaking needles they apprehend from drug users. The training program is now being adopted by Tijuana’s police academy, whereby the police trainers will be teaching the program to their colleagues.

“We believe this program is the best way to reduce needle sharing among people who inject drugs, which is driven by policing practices,” Strathdee said.

The program will soon be tested in a newly funded grant by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Proyecto ESCUDO (Project Shield): Harmonizing Law Enforcement and HIV Prevention through a Police Education Program.

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the Division of Global Public Health and Director of the Global Health Initiative.

Strathdee co-leads Proyecto ESCUDO with Leo Beletsky, JD, MPH, adjunct assistant professor in the Division of Global Public Health at UC San Diego and assistant professor of law and health sciences at the Northeastern University School of Law.