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Medical News

Substance Use Increases Risky Behavior, Reduces Treatment Adherence Among People With HIV, Study Finds

July 22, 2013

Data collected from the Centers for AIDS Research Network of Integrated Clinical Systems study cohort found that substance use, unprotected sex, and nonadherence to medication regimens were common among HIV-positive people receiving care. The study evaluated substance use behaviors and health consequences among people with HIV. Researchers found that substance use increased high-risk behaviors as well as decreased complete adherence to medication treatments, and concluded that prevention programs need to address these issues.

These conditions could harm current healthcare strategies because of "the assumption that if more HIV-infected people are tested and enrolled in care, treatment will decrease the community viral load," said Matthew J. Mimiaga, ScD, MPH, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of the study. "Our results support regular screening for [drug use] in primary care settings where HIV-infected patients are treated. Specifically, they support U.S. Public Health Service guidelines that focus on the need for comprehensive HIV-related care that incorporates screening for substance use and mental health as well as referrals to [medical] services."

The study included 3,413 patients from four cities. The participants comprised 84-percent men and 46.2-percent from minority racial/ethnic groups. Although 76.7 percent of the patients were receiving HIV medication at the time of the study, only 30.6 percent were fully adhering to their regimens. More than one-third of the group reported engaging in anal sex in the past six months, and more than half of these reported engaging in unprotected sex. Of the 19 percent of patients who reported engaging in vaginal sex in the previous six months, 46 percent reported engaging in unprotected sex.

The full report, "Substance Use Among HIV-Infected Patients Engaged in Primary Care in the United States: Findings From the Centers for AIDS Research Network of Integrated Clinical Systems Cohort," was published online in the American Journal of Public Health, (2013; doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301162).

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
More News and Views on Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS

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