Untreated opioid dependence increases HIV transmission globally. Although previous research has shown that methadone treatment can reduce HIV risk behavior and seroconversion, little data exist on whether office-based treatment with buprenorphine/ naloxone can have the same effects. This study attempts to address this data gap.
The authors conducted a longitudinal analysis of 166 opiod-dependent people receiving buprenorphine/naloxone treatment in a primary care clinic. After 12 and 24 weeks, drug-related and sex-related HIV risk behaviors were compared with baseline using the AIDS/HIV Risk Inventory.
- Primary care clinic buprenorphine/naloxone treatment was associated with significant reductions in overall and drug-related HIV risk behaviors. Sex-related risk behaviors were lower at 24 weeks, but not at 12 weeks, compared to baseline.
- Reduction in overall risk was driven mainly by decrease in injection drug use and decrease in having sex while on drugs or alcohol.
- The rate of noncondom use was not affected by the treatment.
- These findings are, in general, similar to those from methadone studies.
A primary limitation of this study is the use of self-reported data, as study participants commonly underreport high-risk behaviors. Further efforts to combine buprenorphine treatment programs with counseling aimed specifically at reducing high-risk HIV-transmitting behaviors would likely show even greater effects.