The urgency of providing comprehensive and integrated treatment for substance abusers with HIV

Health Aff (Millwood). 2011 Aug;30(8):1411-9. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0663.


Substance abuse is linked to many new cases of HIV infection. Barriers such as the myth that drug users cannot adhere to HIV/AIDS treatment block progress in curbing the spread of HIV in that population. In this article we explain the need to aggressively seek out high-risk, hard-to-reach substance abusers and to offer them HIV testing, access to treatment, and the necessary support to remain in treatment--both for HIV and for substance abuse. We summarize evidence showing that injection drug users can successfully undergo HIV treatment; that many substance abusers adhere to antiretroviral therapy as well as do people who don't inject drugs; and that injection drug users who undergo substance abuse treatment are more likely to obtain and stay in treatment for their HIV infection. This evidence makes a strong case for integrating substance abuse treatment with HIV treatment programs and providing substance abusers with universal access to HIV treatment. But an integrated strategy will require changes in the health care system to overcome lingering obstacles that inhibit the merging of substance abuse treatment with HIV programs.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated*
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome