High prevalence of substance use among heterosexuals living in communities with high rates of AIDS and poverty in Washington, DC

Irene Kuo*, Alan E. Greenberg, Manya Magnus, Gregory Phillips, Anthony Rawls, James Peterson, Flora Hamilton, Tiffany West-Ojo, Shannon Hader

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess the prevalence and patterns of substance use, HIV prevalence, and sexual risk behaviors in a community-based sample of heterosexuals recruited from areas at high risk for HIV/AIDS and poverty in Washington, DC. Methods: Community-recruited heterosexuals aged 18-50 from areas of high AIDS and poverty rates in DC were analyzed. Based on past 12 months use, participants were hierarchically classified into five groups: (1) ever injection drug use (IDU); (2) non-injection crack; (3) non-injection heroin and cocaine; (4) marijuana; and (5) no drug use. Sexual behaviors and HIV serology were also assessed. Results: Of 862 participants, 40% were men, most were Black and unemployed, and more than half had ever been incarcerated. Prevalence of past year substance use was high: binge drinking (59%); marijuana (50%); non-injection crack (28%); heroin and/or cocaine injection (28%), non-injection cocaine (13%); and ecstasy (13%). In the hierarchical classification, 25% were ever IDU, 15% non-injection crack users, 2% non-injection heroin and/or cocaine users, 31% marijuana users, and 27% reported no drug use. Overall HIV seroprevalence was 5.7% and differed by drug use group-9.5%, 11.1%, 1.8%, 1.6%, and 3.2%, respectively. Nearly half reported having ≥3 sex partners in the past year; 20% reported exchange partners, and 69% had concurrent sex partners. Conclusion: Estimated prevalence of substance use in this heterosexual population was high. HIV prevalence among IDUs and non-injection crack users was higher than the estimated population prevalence in Washington, DC. Sexual behaviors above and beyond drug use are likely to be driving HIV transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-144
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011


  • Crack
  • Drug use
  • HIV
  • Heterosexual
  • Injection drug use
  • Marijuana
  • Washington, DC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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