HIV Infected Stimulant Users: Treatment Benefits

Some studies in the mid 90’s pointed to evidence that stimulants – such as cocaine or methamphetamine – were causing the antiretroviral therapy to be less effective against HIV. For example, HIV infected stimulant users were developing AIDS more frequently than non-using infected. The most recent studies, however, have shown that this evidence was misleading, and that antiretroviral medication does indeed have the same effects on stimulant users and non-users. The evidence was not taking into account the difficulty many stimulant users, especially those who abused these kinds of drugs, have had to obtain their needed medication. Much of this stemmed from a belief that users of these kinds of drugs would also abuse the antiretroviral medication, or would not take the medication properly.

The new data, collected between 1996 and 2012, shows that stimulant users frequently take their medication at the proper intervals, even when they are unable to lessen or stop their respective stimulant substance. This proved that not only do these infected take their medication as directed, the effects of the medication are nearly identical to non-using infected patients. The concern that still lingers concerning HIV infected stimulant users, however, is the spread of the disease due to their drug-related activities. The latest study, out of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (an ongoing study of HIV infected men who have sex with men), has concluded that the biggest focus researchers should now have when dealing with HIV infected stimulant users is education and prevention. One thing the study noticed is that stimulant users are more likely to be open and forthright with their physician—if that doctor is a specialist in HIV and infectious diseases (as opposed to a general physician or one who specializes in drug use and abuse). Even when the patients are not ready to go to a group or doctor for help with their drug habits, they are ready to work with an HIV specialist to ensure their life with HIV is as healthy as possible.