UK study will try to stem high-risk, health-damaging risks in drug-using rural women in Appalachian Kentucky

Researchers at the University of Kentucky have embarked on a five-year study that aims to lower behavioral risks of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C among disadvantaged, rural women in Appalachian Kentucky. With the help of a $2.7 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, investigators will examine the effectiveness of a brief intervention in reducing high-risk behaviors, including sexual practices and use of injected drugs.

Michele Staton-Tindall, right, associate professor in the College of Social Work, is the principal investigator. “Our intervention will focus on an individualized plan for enhancing each woman’s motivation to reduce risk behaviors and to utilize existing health services,” Staton-Tindall said. “The long-term goal of this study is to increase access to health and behavioral-health services in order to improve the quality of health for high-risk rural women.”

According to co-investigator Jennifer Havens, HIV is not a high risk for Appalachian drug users, but hepatitis C is. Caused by a virus that attacks the liver, it is the leading cause of liver cancer in the United States. Currently, more Americans die each year from diseases related to hepatitis-C infection than from HIV-related causes, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Like HIV, hepatitis C is spread through contact with contaminated blood, often through the use of needles shared by intravenous drug users.

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