The OATH syndemic: Opioids and other substances, aging, alcohol, tobacco, and HIV


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Persons living with HIV (PLWH) are aging, continue to use alcohol and other substances, and experience age-associated adverse effects. We explore a new syndemic: OATH (opioids and other substances, aging, alcohol, tobacco, and HIV). RECENT FINDINGS: Frailty and falls are important problems that affect the health status of PLWH who continue to use alcohol and other substances. HIV, alcohol and other substance use, and aging each contributes to inflammaging. Multimorbidity and polypharmacy are also important pathways as alcohol and other substances interact with prescribed medications resulting in adverse-drug interactions leading to potentially serious consequences. Social conditions including racism, poverty, sex bias, stress, and stigma contribute to the existence and persistence of this syndemic. SUMMARY: Substance use, HIV, and aging are linked in a new syndemic (OATH) that drives age-related outcomes such as frailty and falls. We need to expand our understanding of the ‘healthcare team’ so that we include social and political advocates who can support necessary structural change. Treatment of substance use should be better incorporated into the management of HIV, including a focus on potential medication/substance interactions. Finally, we need to explore treatment of frailty rather than individual manifestations of frailty (e.g., atherosclerosis, neurodegeneration).


Womack JA, Justice AC




  • Population(s)
    • People who use drugs
    • General HIV+ population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Prevention
  • Prevention
    • Drug use behaviours/harm reduction
  • Substance Use
    • Alcohol
    • Nonmedicinal drugs
  • Co-morbidities
    • Age related disorders
    • Other
  • Health Systems
    • Delivery arrangements


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