Associations of Transactional Sex and Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Treatment-Seeking Individuals With Opioid Use Disorder

Matthew S. Ellis, Zachary A. Kasper, Bryce Takenaka, Mance E. Buttram, Enbal Shacham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: Coinciding with the rise in opioid use across the U.S., the rates of sexually transmitted infections have reached historically high levels, underscoring the need to understand multiple pathways of disease spread. Although prevention is often focused on injection-related behaviors, this study sought to identify the prevalence and associations of a little understood pathway, transactional sex, among individuals with opioid use disorder, including associations of transactional sex with the prevalence of sexually transmitted infection diagnoses. Methods: Data were sourced from a nationwide opioid surveillance program of treatment-seeking individuals with opioid use disorder utilizing a serial, cross-sectional survey of 4,366 new entrants to 1 of 99 substance use treatment programs for opioid use disorder in 37 states from October 2018 to June 2021. Results: A quarter of the sample (24.9%) self-reported a lifetime history of transactional sex for drugs, with rates highest for sexual (56.6%) and gender (53.8%) minority, female (33.4%), Latinx (30.4%), and Black (29.6%) subgroupings. Lifetime diagnoses of all specific sexually transmitted infections analyzed were significantly higher (p<0.001) among those reporting transactional sex, particularly syphilis (14.3% vs 4.4%) and HIV (4.0 vs 0.9%). Financial hardship, trauma, and psychiatric disorder were significantly associated with transactional sex engagement. Conclusions: Transactional sex is relatively common among patients with opioid use disorder, particularly among sexual/gender minorities, which was associated with a greater lifetime prevalence of all sexually transmitted infections assessed. Sexually transmitted infection testing remains at low levels within substance use treatment programs, occurring in just 26.3% of programs; sexual health screenings and sexually transmitted infection prevention/testing need to be prioritized and integrated into opioid use disorder patient care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Volume64
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2023

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