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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown Researchers Assess the Prevalence and Correlates of Substance Use among Youth Living with HIV

HIV infection disproportionately affects young people, with individuals 16-24 years of age demonstrating the highest rates of new HIV infections compared to other age groups. Several studies have documented a high prevalence of substance use behaviors among young people living with HIV, which carries a host of general health risks as well as repercussions for those with HIV, including increased condomless sex and suboptimal adherence to antiretroviral therapy.


[Photo: Dr. Kristi Gamarel]

The purpose of this study, led by Dr. Kristi Gamarel, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and core faculty in the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, was to assess the prevalence of substance use behaviors in a population of 2216 youth living with HIV, and to examine the associations between several substances, sociodemographic and structural factors, comorbid psychological distress, and HIV disease and sexual risk characteristics.

The researchers found that, overall, weekly or more frequent tobacco use was reported by 32.9% of participants, 27.5% reported marijuana use, 21.3% reported alcohol use, and 22.5% reported any other illicit drug use. In multivariable models, young men who have sex with men (MSM) had higher odds of reporting each substance use behavior, and transgender women had increased odds of marijuana and other illicit drug use. Criminal justice involvement, unstable housing, condomless sex, and suboptimal antiretroviral therapy was associated with increased risk of substance use behaviors.

This study provides important insights into the prevalence and correlates of substance use among youth living with HIV, which has practical implications for research and clinical services. Findings suggest that a consideration of structural factors as well as social support is critical when developing interventions aimed at this population.

This study was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Issue 169, 2016.

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