Access To HAART May Help Solve Challenging Societal Problems, A Study Finds
Treatment gave a group of HIV-positive women a new lease on life — so much so that some of them quit using drugs and left their physically abusive partners, a new U. S. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper suggests.
The researchers looked a group of mostly minority, low-income women in the longitudinal study "Women’s Interagency HIV Study", that began in 1994. They measured women's mental and physical health, as well as rates of drug abuse and the amount of domestic violence they experienced, before and after the introduction of HAART.
At the outset, these women had harsh lives. Before HAART, 29% experienced domestic violence, while 28% used stimulants like crack cocaine. After the introduction of HAART, the rate of domestic violence among the women decreased by 10 percent, and the rate of drug use went down by 15 percent.
Right after the introduction of HAART, the researchers saw “hopefulness” increase among the HIV-positive women — even though not all of the women were taking the treatment. The mere prospect of a healthy future, in other words, might have led them to make different decisions about their lives.
“If you give a group of people a longer lifespan, it gives them a chance to invest in themselves,” says Nicholas Papageorge, a Johns Hopkins economist. “One element of that is the incentive to leave an abusive partner.”
The study didn’t capture what exactly the women were thinking, but it’s possible they could have abandoned their violent partners once they realised they wouldn’t need somebody to care for them as their HIV progressed. Then, they might have thought, “we used to shoot up heroin together, but now that he’s not around, I’m not going to do that anymore,” Papageorge suggested. “I bet you all of those things happened.”