Background: The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic has increasingly involved intravenous drug users. Few studies have attempted to define its clinical and laboratory characteristics in this population.
Methods: We recruited 223 intravenous drug users from New York, NY, for a prospective study of the natural course of HIV infection. Medical history, physical examination, medical staging, and immunologic assessments were performed at 6-month intervals. We examined the baseline findings among this cohort.
Results: Of the total cohort, 65.9% were men and 34.1% were women, with 70.9% African American, 12.6% white, 11.7% white Latino, and 4.9% black Latino. At baseline, 44.4% were HIV negative and 55.6% were HIV positive. No significant association was noted between ethnicity, gender, and serologic status. Also no significant difference was noted for homelessness either across serologic status or gender. There was a trend toward an association between gender and use of drugs during the week before interview; the women showed higher drug use. A significant association was noted between HIV serologic status and reported history of pneumonia, oral candidiasis, cough, night sweats, fever, and lymphadenopathy on physical examination. In a regression model, white blood cell count, hematocrit, symptom/sign complex score, and CD4 cell number were significantly associated with HIV status.
Conclusion: This study provided important historical, clinical, and immunologic characteristics that are useful in the identification and evaluation of the HIV-infected intravenous drug user.