Researchers examine the use of antiretroviral therapy among injection drug users with HIV infection: Study suggests addiction treatment and health care contribute to HAART enrollment

Over 40 percent of injection drug users with HIV that are eligible for the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) fail to undergo the treatment, according to a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The HAART regimen, or "drug cocktail," is a combination of several antiretroviral drugs that can dramatically reduce the levels of HIV in the body and slow the progression to AIDS. The study, which appears in the September 2001 issue of the journal, AIDS, suggests that injection drug use is a major impediment to initiating HAART therapy, while methadone addiction treatment among men, health insurance, and access to regular health care were factors associated with increased HAART use.

"Injection drug users directly or indirectly account for nearly half of all the people infected with HIV in the United States each year, and they are a population that could certainly benefit from HAART use.

In addition to making people with HIV feel better, HAART has also been shown to make them less infectious to others by reducing their viral load, so there is a real benefit to the public," says lead author David D. Celentano, ScD, MHS, professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Over the years, we've seen an increase in the number of injection drug users undergoing HAART, but a large number still do not use the therapy. It is important to understand the factors involved in why drug users choose or do not choose this therapy. Our study examines some of the factors that contribute to HAART use among injection drug users with HIV," adds Dr. Celentano.

For the study, researchers examined 528 HIV-infected injection drug users living in Baltimore, Maryland between 1996 and 1999. All of the study's participants were originally part of a larger long-term study of AIDS and injection drug users known as AIDS Links to Intravenous Experience (ALIVE). In addition, all of the partic

Contact: Tim Parsons or Ming Tai
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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