SEATTLE – People with HIV are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than the general public, according to investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We looked into this because we know persons with HIV are more likely to have chronic pain and more likely to receive opioid analgesic treatments, and receive higher doses. In addition, they are more likely to have substance use disorders and mental illness than the U.S. general populations,” CDC epidemiologist, said at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
To see how that played out in terms of unintentional opioid overdose deaths, they turned to theand focused on overdose deaths during 2011-2015, the latest data available at the time of the work.
There were 1,363 overdose deaths among persons with HIV during that period, with the rate increasing 42.7% – from 23.2/100,000 HIV patients in 2011 to 33.1/100,000 in 2015.
Although the rate of increase was comparable to the general population, the crude rate was “actually substantially higher among persons with HIV,” Dr. Bosh said. Deaths were highest among persons aged 50-59 years (41.9/100,000), whites (49.1/100,000), injection drug users (137.4/100,000), and people who live in the Northeast (60.6/100,000).
Surprisingly, there was no increase in the rate of overdose deaths among HIV patients on the West Coast, possibly because heroin there was less likely to be cut with fentanyl.
Also, the rate of opioid overdose deaths was higher among women with HIV (35.2/100,000) than among men, perhaps because women are more likely to contract HIV by injection drug use, so they are more likely to be injection drug users at baseline, while the vast majority of men are infected through male-male sex, the investigators said.
The findings underscore the importance of intensifying overdose prevention in the HIV community, and better integrating HIV and substance use disorder treatment, they concluded.
That comes down to screening people for problems, especially in the subgroups identified in the study, and connecting them to drug treatment services. If HIV and substance disorder services were in the same clinic it would help, as would an increase in the number of buprenorphine providers, according to, a coinvestigator and CDC epidemiologist.
“Obviously, when substance use is addressed, people can be much more adherent with their [HIV] medications,” she noted.
The work was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The investigators had no relevant disclosures.
SOURCE: Bosh KA et al. CROI 2019,