Attitudes towards exercise among substance using older adults living with HIV and chronic pain.
Chronic pain and substance use disorders occur commonly among HIV-infected persons. Recent CDC guidelines recommend non-pharmacologic approaches over opioid medications for the management of chronic pain. This is particularly relevant for persons with substance use disorders. Structured physical activity may be an effective strategy for pain reduction. We developed a combined cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) + exercise intervention to reduce pain, pain-related disability and substance use and improve physical function in older HIV-infected adults with chronic pain and substance use. We employed established CBT protocols for the intervention, and sought feedback from potential end users when developing the exercise component of the intervention. A total of 27 HIV-infected adults ≥ 50 years of age participated in four focus group sessions. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Participant demographics: mean age 54 years; male 81%; Hispanic 48%, Black 33%; treated for substance abuse in the past 52%. Exercise was seen as a desirable activity, but many participants expressed barriers to exercise including fear of pain exacerbation, low physical fitness, and lack of availability of perceived safe spaces for HIV-infected persons. Most participants were receptive to exercise for pain reduction, particularly modalities that provide added psychological benefits of reducing stress and anxiety. Exercise for pain management among older HIV-infected adults with chronic pain and substance use was found to be highly acceptable. However, interventions need to be tailored to the unique needs of this population to address their fears and concerns.