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Marginalised HIV positive drug users felt that an HIV diagnosis created benefits as well as losses

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Q How do active or recovering street drug users who have HIV frame their illness?


Qualitative study using indepth semistructured interviews.


Hartford, Connecticut, USA.


60 patients who were 27–60 years of age (mean age 41 y, 68% men, 48% Puerto Rican, 45% African-American), had HIV, and were illicit drug users living in poverty. 78% were unemployed, and 90% had no health insurance. Duration of HIV ranged from 0 to15 years (median 7 y).


Patients were asked the following questions: what does HIV mean to you? How does HIV affect you? Why do some people get HIV but others (engaging in similarly risky behaviours) do not? How has HIV affected how you see yourself? They were also asked about treatment compliance, disclosure, and disease related discrimination. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, …

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  • For correspondence: Dr K E Mosack, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA. kmosack{at}

  • Source of funding: National Institute on Drug Abuse.