Friday September 28, 2001

Many IV Drug Users with HIV Don't Get Medications


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Although the number of HIV-infected injection drug users who take anti-HIV medications is on the increase, many may not be aware they are eligible for treatment with such medications, according to a researchers.

Lead author Dr. David Celentano of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues interviewed 528 HIV-positive people who use injection drugs and found that 40% of them did not seek out anti-HIV drug therapy.

In the US, those who use injectable drugs make up a high proportion of those who are becoming newly infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

``Among new AIDS cases, drug users stand out in numbers far larger than their proportion in the population,'' Celentano told Reuters Health.

``We now have very effective treatments for AIDS that have dramatically reduced the death rate and improved health status. However, drug users have lagged other HIV-infected groups in getting on these new drug regimens,'' he added.

The current study, published in the September issue of the journal AIDS, shows that drug users are beginning to receive effective treatments, a major change in the past several years. However, according to the findings, a significant proportion--about 40%--still have not yet started these highly effective treatments.

``This may be due to their doctors not believing they are ready to be adherent to complex regimens, or that the patients themselves may not be ready for the treatment,'' Celentano said.

``We believe that the major barrier to getting injection drug users on (anti-HIV) treatment is the concern by physicians that they are not capable of taking the medications according to their prescription,'' he continued.

``However, our data suggest that regardless of their current drug use, they appear willing and able to take their medications as directed,'' Celentano concluded.