Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 397–406 | Cite as

Synergistic effects of food insecurity and drug use on medication adherence among people living with HIV infection



Food insecurity and drug use are closely connected in the context of poverty, and both have been suggested to interfere with HIV medication adherence among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH). Yet the potential interaction between the two factors on adherence has not been examined. For this study we collected longitudinal data on HIV medication adherence among PLWH in Atlanta, GA, to assess a possible synergistic effect between the two factors on HIV medication adherence. People informed about the study came to the research site and completed an audio computer-assisted self-interview and instructions for pill counting. Over the next 5 weeks participants received three unscheduled follow-up phone assessments conducted 2 weeks apart to collect pill counts of their HIV medication. The prevalence of food insecurity was 60 % (488) and that of drug use was 33 % (274) in the sample of 809 participants. Among 770 participants who completed follow-up phone assessments, both food insecurity and drug use were associated with HIV medication adherence after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics. The negative association between drug use and adherence persisted after further adjusting for health-related characteristics. Moreover, drug use appeared to moderate the effect of food insufficiency on adherence, with drug users who were food insufficient being the least likely to achieve 85 % adherence. Results from the current study demonstrate a synergism between food insecurity and drug use that may impede adherence among PLWH. The findings imply that the disruptive effects of food insecurity and drug use on adherence are likely to be intensified with the presence of each other, and encourage interventions to address the problem of HIV medication adherence from a multi-faceted perspective that takes into account detrimental combination of problem factors.


Food insecurity Drug use HIV ART Adherence 



This project was supported by National Institute of Drug Abuse Grant R01-DA017399.

Conflict of interest

Yiyun Chen and Seth C. Kalichman declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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