Participation in methadone programs improves antiretroviral uptake and HIV viral suppression among people who inject drugs in Kenya

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2022 Mar:134:108587. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2021.108587. Epub 2021 Aug 8.


Background: HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Kenya is estimated to be 18% compared to 4.5% in the general population. Studies from high-income countries have demonstrated that methadone use is associated with increased uptake of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and higher rates of viral suppression among PWID with HIV. However, it is unclear whether methadone use has the same effect among African PWID living with HIV.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study to evaluate associations between methadone program participation and ART uptake and viral suppression (HIV RNA viral load <1000 copies/ml) among PWID with HIV in Kenya. Participants were recruited from needle and syringe programs and methadone clinics, interviewed on site, and samples were obtained and assayed for HIV viral loads. Univariate and multiple logistic regression were used to determine associations.

Results: Among 679 participants, median age was 37 years, 48% were female, and 24% were in a methadone program. We observed higher proportions of ART use (96% vs. 87%, p = 0.001) and HIV viral suppression (78% vs. 65%, p = 0.012) among PWID on methadone compared to those not on methadone treatment. PWID who were not participating in a methadone program were 3-fold more likely to be off ART and approximately twice as likely to be viremic compared to those in methadone programs (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 3.35, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.35-8.35 and aOR = 1.90, 95% CI: 1.03-3.52, respectively).

Conclusions: In this study, Kenyan PWID living with HIV participating in a methadone treatment program were more likely to be on ART and to have achieved viral suppression. Scale-up of methadone programs may have a positive impact on HIV epidemic control for this key population.

Keywords: Antiretroviral therapy; Kenya; Methadone; Viral suppression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Users*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous* / drug therapy
  • Viral Load


  • Methadone