Injection Drug Use, Unemployment, and Severe Food Insecurity Among HIV-HCV Co-Infected Individuals: A Mediation Analysis


Severe food insecurity (FI), which indicates reduced food intake, is common among HIV-hepatitis C virus (HCV) co-infected individuals. Given the importance of unemployment as a proximal risk factor for FI, this mediation analysis examines a potential mechanism through which injection drug use (IDU) is associated with severe FI. We used biannual data from the Canadian Co-infection Cohort (N = 429 with 3 study visits, 2012-2015). IDU in the past 6 months (exposure) and current unemployment (mediator) were self-reported. Severe FI in the following 6 months (outcome) was measured using the Household Food Security Survey Module. An overall association and a controlled direct effect were estimated using marginal structural models. Among participants, 32% engaged in IDU, 78% were unemployed, and 29% experienced severe FI. After adjustment for confounding and addressing censoring through weighting, the overall association (through all potential pathways) between IDU and severe FI was: risk ratio (RR) = 1.69 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.15-2.48). The controlled direct effect (the association through all potential pathways except that of unemployment) was: RR = 1.65 (95% CI = 1.08-2.53). We found evidence of an overall association between IDU and severe FI and estimated a controlled direct effect that is suggestive of pathways from IDU to severe FI that are not mediated by unemployment. Specifically, an overall association and a controlled direct effect that are similar in magnitude suggests that the potential impact of IDU on unemployment is not the primary mechanism through which IDU is associated with severe FI. Therefore, while further research is required to understand the mechanisms linking IDU and severe FI, the strong overall association suggests that reductions in IDU may mitigate severe FI in this vulnerable subset of the HIV-positive population.

AIDS Behav
Sam Harper
Sam Harper
Associate Professor of Epidemiology

My research interests include impact evaluation, reproducible research, and social epidemiology.