Although community network studies show that sexual relationships occur between members of “risk groups”—men who have sex with other men (MSM), people who inject drugs (PWID), non-injection drug users—and heterosexuals, researchers at the College of Nursing’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) note that little research has been done to help explain how HIV epidemics and programs in one population affect others and how to reduce the risks of transmission.
A recent study conducted by researchers from CDUHR—led by Samuel R. Friedman, director of the center’s Interdisciplinary Theoretical Synthesis Core as well as the Institute for Infectious Disease Research at the National Development Research Institute—sheds light on the pathways connecting HIV epidemics in different populations.
The study, published in the Annals of Epidemiology, shows that programs for people who use drugs—like syringe exchange, HIV counseling and testing, and drug abuse treatment—are associated with subsequent lower rates of AIDS incidence and death among heterosexuals.
“Since existing theory and research have relatively little to say about the cross-population processes being studied, we used exploratory analytic technique to study these relationships,” explains Friedman.
The objective of the study—“Do Metropolitan HIV Epidemic Histories and Programs for People Who Inject Drugs and Men Who Have Sex With Men Predict AIDS Incidence and Mortality Among Heterosexuals?”—was to better understand how epidemics among MSMs and PWIDs correlate with later epidemics and mortality within heterosexuals; how prevention programs targeting specific groups affect future epidemics among other populations; and whether the size of MSM and PWID populations are associated with the later epidemics and mortalities among heterosexuals.