OBJECTIVE: To analyze perceptions of risk, prevention strategies, their own relationship with drug use and that of their partner's, and future expectations among women living with HIV/AIDS whose partners are drug users. METHODS: This is a qualitative study of women living with HIV/AIDS who receive specialist treatment in Sao Paulo Municipality. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 15 women, whose self-reported means of infection were heterosexual relations with a partner who is an injecting drug user. The script for the interviews covered the following areas: childhood, history of sexual relations, use of drugs, impact of seropositivity on daily life, understanding of the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and perspectives of the future. The material from the interviews was analyzed using content analysis. RESULTS: The study pointed to a difference in the ways that the women live with their own drug use and with that of their partners. Their partners' use of injecting drugs was not primarily associated with a risk of HIV infection, due to attempts to conceal the fact or because they believed that the monogamy-fidelity-confidence trinity would take precedence as a form of protection. CONCLUSIONS: The women's different experiences of drug use should be taken into account and opportunities to discuss with them about the issue are important to ensure that more effective strategies for prevention and care are adopted.
Women; Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; Substance abuse; Health knowledge, attitudes, practice; Health care (Public Health); Qualitative research