Boston Medical Center (BMC) researchers report that marijuana use increases the risk of unsafe sex and drug use among HIV-infected Russians who are also “risky drinkers.” HIV transmission through unprotected sex is increasing in Russia, although injection drug use (IDU) has previously been the biggest source of the Russian HIV epidemic, according to one of the study’s authors, Jeffrey Samet, MD, chief of general internal medicine at BMC.
The BMC study defined males who have more than four drinks a day or 14 drinks a week as risky drinkers; the study considered women who consume more than three drinks a day or seven in a week as risky drinkers. The study examined data collected from 700 HIV-infected St. Petersburg residents who fit into the category of risky drinkers, and then compared needle-sharing, IDU, condom use, and number of sex partners among marijuana users and non-marijuana users.
Data revealed that 20 percent of the entire cohort had used marijuana in the past month and almost half the cohort (46 percent) had used marijuana in the previous year. Forty-two percent of the cohort reported IDU within the last month, and 23 percent said they had shared needles within the last 30 days. More than a quarter of the cohort (27 percent) had multiple sex partners within the last three months.
Study participants who used marijuana in the last 30 days were more likely to share needles, have more sex partners, and inject drugs more often than those who did not use marijuana. Samet stated that study results may help identify individuals at high risk for transmitting HIV to others.
The full report, “Is Cannabis Use Associated with HIV Drug and Sex Risk Behaviors Among Russian HIV-infected Risky Drinkers?” was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence (2013; doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.01.009).