Interrelationship of Alcohol Misuse, HIV Sexual Risk and HIV Screening Uptake Among Emergency Department Patients

Alexis D Trillo; Roland C Merchant; Janette R Baird; George T Ladd; Tao Liu; Ted D Nirenberg


BMC Emerg Med. 2013;13(9) 

In This Article


Background: Emergency department (ED) patients comprise a high-risk population for alcohol misuse and sexual risk for HIV. In order to design future interventions to increase HIV screening uptake, we examined the interrelationship among alcohol misuse, sexual risk for HIV and HIV screening uptake among these patients.

Methods: A random sample of 18-64-year-old English- or Spanish-speaking patients at two EDs during July-August 2009 completed a self-administered questionnaire about their alcohol use using the Alcohol Use Questionnaire, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and the HIV Sexual Risk Questionnaire. Study participants were offered a rapid HIV test after completing the questionnaires. Binging (≥ five drinks/occasion for men, ≥ four drinks for women) was assessed and sex-specific alcohol misuse severity levels (low-risk, harmful, hazardous, dependence) were calculated using AUDIT scores. Analyses were limited to participants who had sexual intercourse in the past 12 months. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the associations between HIV screening uptake and (1) alcohol misuse, (2) sexual risk for HIV, and (3) the intersection of HIV sexual risk and alcohol misuse. Adjusted odds ratios (AORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated. All models were adjusted for patient demographic characteristics and separate models for men and women were constructed.

Results: Of 524 participants (55.0% female), 58.4% identified as white, non-Hispanic, and 72% reported previous HIV testing. Approximately 75% of participants reported drinking alcohol within the past 30 days and 74.5% of men and 59.6% of women reported binge drinking. A relationship was found between reported sexual risk for HIV and alcohol use among men (AOR 3.31 [CI 1.51–7.24]) and women (AOR 2.78 [CI 1.48–5.23]). Women who reported binge drinking were more likely to have higher reported sexual risk for HIV (AOR 2.55 [CI 1.40–4.64]) compared to women who do not report binge drinking. HIV screening uptake was not higher among those with greater alcohol misuse and sexual risk among men or women.

Conclusions: The apparent disconnection between HIV screening uptake and alcohol misuse and sexual risk for HIV among ED patients in this study is concerning. Brief interventions emphasizing these associations should be evaluated to reduce alcohol misuse and sexual risk and increase the uptake of ED HIV screening.