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AIDS Behav. 2015 May;19(5):857-68. doi: 10.1007/s10461-014-0856-2.

The Demand for Antiretroviral Drugs in the Illicit Marketplace: Implications for HIV Disease Management Among Vulnerable Populations.

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Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities, Nova Southeastern University, 2 NE 40th Street, Suite 404, Miami, FL, 33137, USA,


The diversion of antiretroviral medications (ARVs) has implications for the integrity and success of HIV care, however little is known about the ARV illicit market. This paper aimed to identify the motivations for buying illicit ARVs and to describe market dynamics. Semi-structured interviews (n = 44) were conducted with substance-involved individuals living with HIV who have a history of purchasing ARVs on the street. Grounded theory was used to code and analyze interviews. Motivations for buying ARVs on the illicit market were: to repurchase ARVs after having diverted them for money or drugs; having limited access or low quality health care; to replace lost or ruined ARVs; and to buy a back-up stock of ARVs. This study identified various structural barriers to HIV treatment and ARV adherence that incentivized ARV diversion. Findings highlight the need to improve patient-provider relationships, ensure continuity of care, and integrate services to engage and retain high-needs populations.

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