Clinical characteristics and risk behavior as a function of HIV status among heroin users enrolled in methadone treatment in northern Taiwan

Tony S. Lee, Hsi Che Shen, Wei Hsin Wu, Chun Wei Huang, Muh Yong Yen, Bo En Wang, Peing Chuang, Chien Yu Shih, Ying Chun Chou, Yi Lien Liu

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Background: Methadone treatment was introduced in Taiwan in 2006 as a harm-reduction program in response to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is endemic among Taiwanese heroin users. The present study was aimed at examining the clinical and behavioral characteristics of methadone patients in northern Taiwan according to their HIV status.Methods: The study was conducted at four methadone clinics. Participants were patients who had undergone methadone treatment at the clinics and who voluntarily signed a consent form. Between August and November 2008, each participant completed a face-to-face interview that included questions on demographics, risk behavior, quality of life, and psychiatric symptoms. Data on HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, methadone dosage, and morphine in the urine were retrieved from patient files on the clinical premises, with permission of the participants.Results: Of 576 participants, 71 were HIV positive, and 514 had hepatitis C. There were significant differences between the HIV-positive and HIV-negative groups on source of treatment payment, HCV infection, urine test results, methadone dosage, and treatment duration. The results indicate that HIV-negative heroin users were more likely to have sexual intercourse and not use condoms during the 6 months prior to the study. A substantial percent of the sample reported anxiety (21.0%), depression (27.2%), memory loss (32.7%), attempted suicide (32.7%), and administration of psychiatric medications (16.1%). There were no significant differences between the HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients on psychiatric symptoms or quality of life.Conclusions: HIV-positive IDUs were comorbid with HCV, indicating the need to refer both HIV- and HCV-infected individuals for treatment in methadone clinics. Currently, there is a gap between psychiatric/psychosocial services and patient symptoms, and more integrated medical services should be provided to heroin-using populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalSubstance Abuse: Treatment, Prevention, and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Apr 8


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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