HIV prevalence and contextual risk-factors among injection drug users in Harris County, Texas

Syed Wasim Bin Noor, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Injection drug use is the third most frequent risk factor for new HIV infections in the United States. A dual mode of exposure: unsafe drug using practices and risky sexual behaviors underlies injection drug users' (IDUs) risk for HIV infection. This research study aims to characterize patterns of drug use and sexual behaviors and to examine the social contexts associated with risk behaviors among a sample of injection drug users. This cross-sectional study includes 523 eligible injection drug users from Houston, Texas, recruited into the 2009 National HIV Behavioral Surveillance project. Three separate set of analyses were carried out. First, using latent class analysis (LCA) and maximum likelihood we identified classes of behavior describing levels of HIV risk, from nine drug and sexual behaviors. Second, eight separate multivariable regression models were built to examine the odds of reporting a given risk behavior. We constructed the most parsimonious multivariable model using a manual backward stepwise process. Third, we examined whether HIV serostatus knowledge (self-reported positive, negative, or unknown serostatus) is associated with drug use and sexual HIV risk behaviors. Participants were mostly male, older, and non-Hispanic Black. Forty-two percent of our sample had behaviors putting them at high risk, 25% at moderate risk, and 33% at low risk for HIV infection. Individuals in the High-risk group had the highest probability of risky behaviors, categorized as almost always sharing needles (0.93), seldom using condoms (0.10), reporting recent exchange sex partners (0.90), and practicing anal sex (0.34). We observed that unsafe injecting practices were associated with high risk sexual behaviors. IDUs who shared needles had higher odds of having anal sex (OR=2.89, 95%CI: 1.69-4.92) and unprotected sex (OR=2.66, 95%CI: 1.38-5.10) at last sex. Additionally, homelessness was associated with needle sharing (OR=2.24, 95% CI: 1.34-3.76) and cocaine use was associated with multiple sex partners (OR=1.82, 95% CI: 1.07-3.11). Furthermore, twenty-one percent of the sample was unaware of their HIV serostatus. The three groups were not different from each other in terms of drug-use behaviors: always using a new sterile needle, or in sharing needles or drug preparation equipment. However, IDUs unaware of their HIV serostatus were 33% more likely to report having more than three sexual partners in the past 12 months; 45% more likely to report to have unprotected sex and 85% more likely to use drug and or alcohol during or before at last sex compared to HIV-positive IDUs. This analysis underscores the merit of LCA approach to empirically categorize injection drug users into distinct classes and identify their risk pattern using multiple indicators and our results show considerable overlap of high risk sexual and drug use behaviors among the high-risk class members. The observed clustering pattern of drug and sexual risk behavior among this population confirms that injection drug users do not represent a homogeneous population in terms of HIV risk. These findings will help develop tailored prevention programs.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Noor, Syed Wasim Bin, "HIV prevalence and contextual risk-factors among injection drug users in Harris County, Texas" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3518875.