Even as the overall annual death rate has declined among people living with HIV, their rate of death from opioid-driven overdose has increased swiftly, Healio reports.

People with HIV have high rates of chronic pain as well as opioid usage, including high-risk opioid usage that could give rise to opioid use disorder, otherwise known as addiction. And, of course, injection drug use—which typically involves opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl—is a major driver of transmission of the virus.

Karin A. Bosh, PhD, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention presented findings from an analysis of accidental opioid-related death trends in the U.S. HIV population. She and her colleagues analyzed data from the National HIV Surveillance System and found records indicating that 1,363 people with HIV died of opioid overdose between 2011 and 2015.

Karin Bosh of CDC at CROI 2019

Karin Bosh of CDC at CROI 2019Benjamin Ryan

During the study period, the annual death rate of the HIV population as a whole declined by 12.7 percent while the opioid overdose death rate increased by 42.7 percent. Even when parsing the data into various subcategories, the investigators found that the opioid death rate rose in virtually all groups, including those separated according to age, sex, race, mode of HIV transmission and U.S. Census region. The one exception was that the opioid overdose death rate did not rise in the West.

Compared with their respective counterparts, the opioid death rate per 100,000 people with HIV was highest among those 50 to 59 years old (41.9 deaths, or 0.0419 percent of the HIV population in that age bracket), women (35.2 deaths), whites (49.1 deaths) people who inject drugs (137.4 deaths) and those living in the Northeast (60.6 deaths).

To read a POZ feature about the huge, underrecognized problem of chronic pain among people with HIV, click here.

To read the Healio article, click here.

To read the conference abstract, click here.

To view a webcast of the conference presentation, click here.