HIV Patients Treated With Protease Inhibitors Are More Likely To Engage In Risky Sex, Emory Researchers Report

November 18, 1998

Patients living with HIV who are being treated with protease inhibitors may be less concerned about practicing safe sex than those HIV patients not being treated with the drugs, according to a new collaborative study.

Researchers at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied sexually active persons living with HIV and found that those treated with protease inhibitors were more likely to report inconsistent condom use compared to persons not treated with protease inhibitors.

Ralph DiClemente, Ph.D., Emory professor of behavioral sciences and health education, will present the research at the American Public Health Association meeting in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 18.

The study included a cross section of persons living with HIV attending six public clinics in non-urban Alabama communities. Within the study group, sexually active patients being treated with protease inhibitors were approximately two and a half times more likely to engage in risky sex (use condoms less than half the time while having sex) compared to patients not being treated with protease inhibitors.

Even more alarming, according to Dr. DiClemente, was the finding that patients using protease inhibitors were also more likely to report "never" using condoms during sexual intercourse. Even after controlling for factors such as age, race, education, and other AIDS defining conditions, patients treated with protease inhibitors were significantly more likely to report engaging in risky sex. There were significant differences, however, by sexual preference.

Within the study group, men who had sex with men (MSM) and were being treated with protease inhibitors were 3.8 times more likely to report condom use less than half the times they engaged in sexual intercourse compared to MSM not being treated with protease inhibitors. MSM using protease inhibitors were 5.4 times more likely to report "never" using condoms during sexual intercourse. Similar findings were not observed for heterosexual men or women.

As the use of antiretroviral medications, including protease inhibitors, has revolutionized the clinical management of HIV, protease inhibitors have become an integral component of the clinical strategy to treat HIV infection. "Given that many HIV-infected individuals will be treated with protease inhibitors, these unanticipated consequences are disturbing and suggest a need for further in-depth study," said Dr. DiClemente.

The investigators hope to undercover the motives for engaging in risky sex among protease inhibitor users as well as to facilitate education and counseling of clinical providers and patients to prevent high-risk behavior.

The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
-end-


Emory University Health Sciences Center

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