Objective: HIV-1-infected active drug users (ADU) obtain smaller clinical benefits with antiretroviral therapy
(HAART) compared to non-ADU subjects with sexually-transmitted HIV-1 infection. Therefore treatment strategies are
required to address the specific issues arising in this challenging scenario. We describe the effectiveness of HAART
provided in a drug abuse outpatient treatment facility through a comprehensive integrated care that includes medical, drug
dependence, and psychosocial support.
Methods: We included all consecutive HIV-1-infected ADU admitted for drug dependency treatment and who started their
first HAART. A comparator arm consisted of a control group of sexually transmitted HIV-1-infected subjects attended in
a reference hospital under standard care. The strategy did not include directly observed treatment.
Results: A total of 71 ADU and 48 matched subjects infected through sexual transmission were included. ADU had lower
baseline CD4+ T-cell counts (196 vs 279 cells/μL, P=.001), and more advanced CDC stages (P=.001). The estimated
probabilities of patients with virological response (<50 copies/mL) at weeks 48 and 96 were 92.9% (95%-CI:
87.1%—99.1%) and 87.3% (95%-CI: 78.7%—95.2% for ADU, and 93.7%(95%-CI: 84.1%—99.8%) and 87.5%
(95%-CI: 77.5%—97.3%) for sexually-infected subjects (P= .1325 and .241). Kaplan-Meier estimates of time to loss
of virological response did not show differences between groups (log rank test, P=.965).
Conclusions: An integrated multidisciplinary care of HIV-1-infected antiretroviral naïve ADU provided in a drug abuse
treatment center obtains high rates of virological suppression, similar to those observed in a comparison group of
sexually-transmitted HIV-1-infected subjects. This strategy should be further evaluated in public health programs and
assessed in randomized trials.