Partnerships and HIV Risk among Drug Users in Los Angeles

Evelyn Kim, UC Los Angeles
Social and Behavioral

Drug use has been shown to have a significant place in the epidemiology of the HIV epidemic in Los Angeles County (LAC). Intervention efforts have targeted risk associated with drug use; however, it is now understood that sexual behavior among drug users may have a larger impact on their risk of infection than previously thought. Given the complexities of the HIV epidemic among drug users, strategies targeting this population must be comprehensive, addressing not only characteristics of drug use behavior, but also those associated with sexual behavior, including partnership dynamics. More research is needed to better understand the interaction between these factors and develop a more comprehensive intervention approach to the HIV epidemic in the drug user population.

The purpose of this study is to identify partnership types among drug users and the effect of these types on risk behaviors (both sexual and drug use) and HIV/Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) prevalence and transmission. In addition, partnership characteristics among drug users and their relationship with risk behaviors and HIV/HCV prevalence will be explored in the context of bridging between different sexual networks. Participants were asked to describe their relationships with their primary sexual partners, as well as other casual or sex-trading partners. This information will also be used to identify the determinants of having different types of partners by demographics and personal risk history

Data analysis will first be conducted using the data collected through the Drug User Intervention Trial (DUIT) study survey in LAC. This analysis will examine associations between sexual and drug use behaviors, demographics, and HIV/HCV prevalence with partnership types. For the other portion of the study, in-depth interviews will be conducted that focus on the intersection between sexual identity, sexual behaviors, drug use, HIV/HCV-risk behaviors, and social and cultural networks. Information collected using these methods will provide an understanding of how potential “bridgers” regard their sexual, familial, and cultural identification and how these factors influence decisions to engage in drug use and HIV sexual risk behaviors.

The examination of partnership types in this context will provide a better conception of the relationship between partnership dynamics, drug use, sexual behavior, and risk of HIV infection. Based on these findings, interventions may be developed that are sensitive to the influence of partnership dynamics and high-risk behavior within the drug user population. Such interventions may facilitate the interruption of transmission networks and empower drug users to make safer decisions regarding their drug use, sexual behavior, and partnerships.