Perceived access and barriers to care among illicit drug users and hazardous drinkers: Findings from the Seek, Test, Treat, and Retain data harmonization initiative (STTR)

Mika Matsuzaki, Quan M. Vu, Marya Gwadz, Joseph A.C. Delaney, Irene Kuo, Maria Esther Perez Trejo, William E. Cunningham, Chinazo O. Cunningham, Katerina Christopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Illicit drug use (DU) and hazardous drinking (HD) among marginalized populations may be associated with greater barriers to care. Methods: We used baseline data on the participants of the Seek, Test, Treat, and Retain data harmonization initiative. DU includes use of any illicit drugs within the past 6 months. HD was defined as scores ≥8 for men and ≥ 7 for women on Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test within the past 12 months. Social support scores were assigned by summing scores from individual questions related to social support. Two outcomes for multivariable regression models and mediation analysis were perceived access to care and perceived barriers to care scores, calculated from summated points from individual questions within each domain. All models were adjusted for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and social support and stratified by HIV status. Results: Among 1403 illicit drug users and 4984 non-drug users, the mean age was 39.6 ± 12.2 years old, 71% were male, 57% African Americans, and 39% Hispanic/Latinos. Over 25% reported difficulties in covering medical costs and finding transportation to health care facilities and greater proportions of drug users and hazardous drinkers reported these issues than non-DU/non-HD. In multivariable models, DU and HD were both independently associated with having greater barriers to care (β: 0.49 (95% confidence interval: 0.19 to 0.79) p < 0.01; 0.31 (0.18 to 0.45) < 0.01) in HIV-negative participants. Neither DU nor HD was strongly associated with barriers to care for HIV-positive participants. Social support was associated with better perceived access to care and fewer barriers to care in the HIV-negative participants. Conclusion: The current study found that financial burdens of care, logistical difficulties in accessing care, and low social support were common challenges among individuals using illicit drugs and/or drinking hazardously. Addressing structural barriers and strengthening social support may be important strategies to improve health care among marginalized populations, regardless of HIV status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number366
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2018


  • Barriers to care
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Social support
  • Substance use
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Attitude to Health
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Male
  • Drug Users/psychology
  • Street Drugs
  • Substance-Related Disorders/therapy
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Alcohol Drinking/psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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