HIV continues to be a worldwide public health concern, particularly for young adults. Half of all new cases of HIV worldwide are made up of individuals aged 15 to 24. The youth of the United States are similarly affected, with 8,000 new cases of HIV in youth aged 13 to 24 diagnosed in 2009 alone. Much research suggests that the rates of substance use are high among young people living with HIV. To add to this growing body of research, Alexandra Duncan led a team of researchers in a meta-analysis of literature focusing on how substance use impacts young people's adherence to HIV medication and medical appointments.
This qualitative study focused specifically on alcohol and illegal drug use among adolescent male HIV patients. Researchers drew from a parent study of 59 African American and Latino youth aged 13 to 24 with behaviorally acquired HIV, recruited from 5 adolescent HIV specialty clinics in the New York City metropolitan area. Participants in this parent study were interviewed between June of 2004 and February of 2007.
The results of this study show that many participants decreased their use of alcohol or illegal drugs after their HIV diagnosis, and those who used substances did not view this habit as a barrier to maintaining their medication adherence. However, results indicate that young people with HIV may find balancing social opportunities for substance use and potential medication interactions difficult. Because of this, providers and caregivers should discuss the consequences of skipping a dose of medication, as well as consequences of substance use, particularly focusing on use in social settings.