A major concern in New York City is reducing the number of drug overdose deaths in people with HIV (PWH). A study published in 2021 used a city-wide HIV registry to identify people in this group who died of drug overdose between 2007 and 2017. For that ten-year period, the overall rate of overdoses dropped for PWH. However, the rate increased between 2014 to 2016 and remained higher in 2017. These rates were more than twice the rate for New York City.
During the ten-year period (2007-2017) 870 PLH died of drug overdose. Of this total, 5.6% (49) died by intentional means (i.e. by suicide) and the other 94.4% (821) deaths were classified as accidental. Among all those who died, almost one third were women (29%), 71% were men, 38% were Black, and 39% were Latinx/Hispanic. Most were between the ages 40-59 years and 43% had a history of injection drug use. Intentional deaths occurred more often in older PLH who were MSM.
Of interest is that 80% had been under HIV care during the past year, and 45% were virally suppressed during doctor visits. This suggests they were in frequent contact with their medical care teams before death. There were missed opportunities to detect increased risk and implement an intervention – especially in older men. Additional training of medical staff and other members of the health care system should be a priority. This could reduce the unacceptably high drug overdose deaths in people with HIV in NYC.
Braunstein, S. L., et al. (2021). “Brief Report: Drug Overdose Deaths Among People with HIV in New York City, 2007–2017.” JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 86(2).