China currently has 1.2 to 3.5 million heroin users (50% with current injection drug use, IDU), and more than 650,000 HIV infected individuals, with 75,000 new infections each year and the majority of HIV infections attributable to IDU. The Chinese government recently embarked on an ambitious program to make methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) widely available to all heroin addicts. By the end of [2008, approximately 560] methadone maintenance treatment clinics had been established, providing treatment to an estimated [166,000] heroin users. However, the current methadone programs provide limited or no drug counseling, and, despite considerable initial promise, many patients continue drug use and risky behaviors while still in MMT or discontinue treatment prematurely. In addition to risky injecting practices, drug users in China also commonly engage in risky sexual practices. Most of China's drug users are young, unmarried, sexually active and only a small fraction report consistent condom use. Their knowledge about HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and blood borne viruses is very poor. The combination of poor knowledge and frequent engagement in high- risk behaviors increases their own risk of infections, and also contributes significantly to the spread of HIV into the general population. [Consequently, we propose a randomized clinical trial to compare the efficacy of MMT combined with one of three manual-guided counseling approaches, Behavioral Drug and HIV Risk Reduction Counseling (BDRC), Educational Counseling (EC), and counseling approximating what is provided as treatment as usual (TAU) in China. Efficacy will be evaluated with regard to our primary outcome measures: reduction of drug- and sex-related HIV risk behaviors, reduction of frequency of heroin or other illicit opiate use, and duration of opiate abstinence. The study will also evaluate treatment effects on secondary outcome measures (including treatment retention, reductions in other illicit drug use, and improvements of functional status of MMT patients) and incremental resource utilization associated with BDRC, EC and TAU.] In preliminary work, we have developed and pilot tested Mandarin versions of the BDRC manual, BDRC and EC training materials, and assessment instruments. [Treatment seeking volunteers] (N=270) entering MMT will be randomly assigned to 4 months of treatment with one of the three manual-guided treatments. A standard methadone induction and dosing protocol will be used for all subjects to ensure comparable methadone dosages in all groups. [All primary and secondary outcome measures will be evaluated during the 4 months of MMT treatment phase and for 6 months following the active treatment phase.] If proven effective, both BDRC and EC can easily be transported to the community MMT settings in China and could significantly improve the overall effectiveness of MMT treatment by addressing important behavioral components of addition and recovery.
This study will provide critical data regarding the efficacy for reducing drug-and sex-related HIV transmission risk behaviors, as well as improving MMT outcomes and patient functioning of two transportable counseling models, behavioral drug and HIV risk reduction counseling (BDRC) and educational counseling (EC) as compared with the current standard of care model in MMT in China. Evidence-based counseling that is efficacious in reducing HIV risks and drug use and is feasible to provide with MMT will greatly improve the public health benefits of disseminating MMT in China and elsewhere in the world.
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