Cutting-Edge Addiction Treatment is Approved

HIV/AIDS poses serious challenges both to people living with the disease and to their care providers. But when opiate addiction is thrown into the mix, it’s a struggle on an entirely different level.

In late 2004, HRSA established the Buprenorphine Initiative, which is being implemented through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Special Projects of National Significance Program. The mission of this project is to determine the effectiveness of buprenorphine for treating opioid abuse in HIV primary care settings. The 10 demonstration sites are coordinated by a technical assistance and evaluation center.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved buprenorphine in 2002 as the first medication for opiate dependence that can be prescribed in a primary care setting. FDA approval was authorized by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000), which applies to certain controlled medications that may be useful in treating addiction. Buprenorphine, an opiate itself, was the first medication approved under DATA 2000 to treat symptoms of withdrawal and block opioid craving.

The availability of substance abuse treatments like buprenorphine in a primary care setting allowed HIV/AIDS care providers to move one step closer to a truly seamless and comprehensive care system by combating the barriers to HIV/AIDS care that drug addiction poses. Those barriers include trouble staying in care, adhering to treatment regimens, and the compounded health problems that result from the combined ravages of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS on the body.