Non-medical use of prescription drugs and HIV risk behaviour in transgender women in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States

Int J STD AIDS. 2016 Aug;27(9):776-82. doi: 10.1177/0956462415595319. Epub 2015 Jul 15.


Male-to-female transgender women (TGW) experience high rates of substance use and HIV. A recent substance use trend is the use of prescription medication without a doctor's consent. No research to date has examined the associations between this non-medical use of prescription drugs and HIV risk behaviour in TGW. In the present study, TGW recruited from community venues (N = 104) in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States completed surveys assessing demographic information, non-medical use of prescription drugs, other substance use, injection practices and sexual risk behaviour. Twenty-four per cent of the sample reported lifetime non-medical use of prescription drugs across the following categories: analgesics (21.2%), anxiolytics (14.4%), stimulants (12.5%) and sedatives (8.7%). Participants reporting non-medical use of prescription drugs were more likely to report other substance use, needle use to inject drugs, injecting silicone and sharing needles. In multivariable analyses, non-medical use of prescription drugs was associated with unprotected sex, sex after engaging in substance use, and commercial sex work, after controlling for demographic factors. Self-esteem and social support from family served as protective factors for non-medical use of prescription drugs. HIV-prevention programmes focused on TGW in the United States may wish to expand their assessment of substance use to include the use of prescription medications without a physician's consent.

Keywords: HIV; Transgender; commercial sex work; injection practices; prescription drug misuse; self-esteem; sexual behaviour; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mid-Atlantic Region / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Needle Sharing
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / adverse effects*
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Work
  • Social Support
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*
  • Transsexualism / psychology
  • Unsafe Sex*
  • Young Adult