Potential Influences of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Drug Use and HIV Care Among People Living With HIV and Substance Use Disorders: Experience From a Pilot Mhealth Intervention
People living with HIV (PLWH) and substance use disorder (SUD) are particularly vulnerable to harmful health consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The health and social consequences of the pandemic may exacerbate substance misuse and poor management of HIV among this population.
This study compares substance use and HIV care before and during the pandemic using data collected weekly through an opioid relapse prevention and HIV management mobile-health intervention.
The study found that during the pandemic, PLWH and SUD have increased illicit substance use and contact with other substance-using individuals and decreased their confidence to stay sober and attend recovery meetings. The proportion of people missing their HIV medications also increased, and confidence to attend HIV follow-up appointments decreased.
Optimal support for PLWH and SUD is critical during pandemics like COVID-19, as drug-related and HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) non-adherence risks such as overdose, unsafe sexual behaviors, and transmission of infectious diseases may unfold.