To examine the predictors of continued drug- and sex-related HIV-risk behaviors among drug users in methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) programs in China.
We followed a sample of 5,035 drug users enrolled for the first time in MMT programs at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months utilizing a longitudinal prospective study design. Drug users' HIV-risk behaviors, MMT characteristics, and drug use, were assessed at all three waves using a structured interview and HIV/HCV status was assessed at baseline and 12-month follow-up using biological specimens.
The point prevalence of HIV was 7.6% and 78.4% for HCV at baseline. Results of generalized linear mixed logistic regression models revealed that HIV-positive MMT clients were more likely to engage in drug injection (aOR = 1.70) and syringe sharing (aOR = 4.73). HCV-positive clients were more likely to inject drugs (aOR = 2.58), share syringes (aOR = 1.97), and have multiple sexual partners (aOR = 1.47). Adherence to MMT was the most significant predictor of reduced HIV-risk behaviors.
Our data confirmed the positive effects of MMT on HIV prevention and underscored the urgency for programs to reduce HIV risk in HIV- and HCV-positive clients. There is a pressing need to strengthen existing counseling services for HIV-positive drug users to reduce their drug-related risk behaviors and to provide counseling for HCV-positive drug users. Further studies are needed to explore interventions to address high dropout rates and low adherence among MMT clients.