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Medical News

Unsafe Sex Common Among Female Drug Users With HIV

August 4, 2006

A recent study of HIV-positive females who inject drugs found that many do not consistently use condoms with their male partners of negative or unknown HIV serostatus.

"Forty percent of the HIV-positive women in our sample were having sex with at-risk male partners, and more than half of the time, condoms were not used consistently," said lead investigator Dr. Mary H. Latka, who is with the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa of KwaZulu Natal in Durban. She and her colleagues studied 426 female HIV-positive injection drug users in Baltimore, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

Of the 426 women, 370 were sexually active; 144 reported a steady sex partner; and 148 reported sex with casual partners who were HIV-negative or whose serostatus was not known. Some of the women reported steady as well as casual partners. Sixty percent of the women reported inconsistent condom use with their regular partner; 53 percent reported inconsistent condom use with casual partners.

Latka noted, however, that those men who knew their close female partner was infected "were much more likely to use a condom." In serodiscordant couples, she said, health care providers should work with both individuals to encourage them to discuss their serostatus, which may help increase the level of condom use, Latka said.

Inconsistent condom use was associated with more use of drugs and alcohol during sex, negative beliefs about condoms, and a lower sense of responsibility for the well-being of others. Latka called for better access to drug treatment programs, noting that "Curbing illicit drug use would not only benefit HIV-positive women, it may also play an important role in reducing the continued spread of HIV from infected women to others."

The full report, "Unprotected Sex Among HIV-Positive Injection Drug-Using Women and Their Serodiscordant Male Partners: Role of Personal and Partnership Influences," was published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (2006;42(2):222-228).

Back to other news for August 4, 2006

Adapted from:
07.18.06; David Douglas

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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.
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