Ranjit, Y.S., Shrestha, R, Copenhaver, M., & Altice, F.L.
Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, April 2021. Abstract
People who use drugs (PWUD) remain at high risk for acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), both from injection and from sexual risk-taking. In 2016, 9% of 39,782 new HIV diagnoses occurred among people who inject drugs in the United States. Reaching PWUD with accurate information about and motivation for initiating pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) remains challenging and remains the first crucial step in the knowledge-attitude-behavior change continuum. This study seeks to contribute to closing this information gap by examining the HIV information-seeking behaviors among PWUD who are not on PrEP, so as to identify potential strategies to increase adoption of HIV prevention such as PrEP as part of overall health and related to risk-taking behaviors. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2016 among HIV-negative PWUD (n = 400), 57.3% of whom reported injecting at least once in a week, chronically maintained on methadone treatment (MMT) at a large addiction treatment program. The study found that the number of hours spent online by people who use drugs was comparable to the general population. Awareness about PrEP and the seeking of HIV-related information was low in this population. Looking for sex partners online, perception of risk, having multiple partners were associated with seeking HIV information. Although using injection drugs was related to high perception of risk of acquiring HIV, it was not associated with seeking HIV information online. It is imperative to further understand the online HIV information seeking behavior of this population and provide targeted information in order to increase awareness and knowledge about HIV-related risk and methods of prevention, including information about PrEP.