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Keywords:

  • AIDS;
  • ART;
  • Canada;
  • HIV;
  • methadone;
  • Vancouver

ABSTRACT

Aims  Despite proven benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART), many human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected injection drug users (IDU) do not access treatment even in settings with free health care. We examined whether methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) increased initiation and adherence to ART among an IDU population with free health care.

Design  We examined prospectively a cohort of opioid-using antiretroviral-naive HIV-infected IDU and investigated factors associated with initiation of antiretroviral therapy as well as subsequent adherence. Factors associated independently with time to first initiation of antiretroviral therapy were modelled using Cox proportional hazards regression.

Findings  Between May 1996 and April 2008, 231 antiretroviral-naive HIV-infected opioid-using IDU were enrolled, among whom 152 (65.8%) initiated ART, for an incidence density of 30.5 [95% confidence interval (CI): 25.9–35.6] per 100 person-years. After adjustment for time-updated clinical characteristics and other potential confounders, use of MMT was associated independently with more rapid uptake of antiretroviral therapy [relative hazard = 1.62 (95% CI: 1.15–2.28); P = 0.006]. Those prescribed methadone also had higher rates of ART adherence after first antiretroviral initiation [odds ratio = 1.49 (95% CI: 1.07–2.08); P = 0.019].

Conclusion  These results demonstrate that MMT contributes to more rapid initiation and subsequent adherence to ART among opioid-using HIV-infected IDU. Addressing international barriers to the use and availability of methadone may increase dramatically uptake of HIV treatment among this population.