As youth infected at birth with HIV reach adolescence and young adulthood, a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases underscores the need to promote healthy behaviors as some of these young people become sexually active.
Like other adolescents, some of the 330 young people in the study (from 15 sites across the U.S.) have initiated sexual activity, with many reporting having unprotected sex. Of the youth who were asked about disclosure of their HIV status to their first sexual partners, the majority reported that they had not disclosed to their partner prior to sexual activity, researchers found. While sexual activity is not uncommon among adolescents, HIV-infected or not, "HIV infection adds another level of complexity to the adolescence of youth who are infected and has implications for both their own health and that of their sexual partners," said lead study author Katherine Tassiopoulos, DSc, MPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health.
The link between not following regimens for antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications — known as non-adherence—and risky sexual behaviors, already recognized among HIV-positive adults, is just now coming to light in adolescents as this cohort emerges from childhood. "Among youth, both non-adherence and sexual initiation may be expressions of independence or of the desire to feel accepted by peers," the authors noted. Successful interventions may account for adolescents' growing desire for independence by encouraging medication adherence, disclosure, and condom use as behaviors that will protect the health of their sexual partners as well as their own.
Early action by clinicians can help prepare these youth to make choices that reduce risk to themselves and to their partners. A critical step is informing youth of their HIV status. In this study, 18 percent of the participants were unaware they were HIV-positive at the time they started sexual activity. Clinicians and families should ensure that young people with HIV are informed of their HIV status prior to or during early adolescence, according to current guidelines for disclosure of HIV infection to children and adolescents.
Researchers found that among sexually active youth with high viral load (> 5,000 copies/ml), 81 percent had drug-resistant virus. This raises the possibility of resistant virus being transmitted to sexual partners and also limits treatment options for infected youth. Author George R. Seage III, DSc, MPH, also of the Harvard School of Public Health, believes that one critical step in encouraging optimal adherence may be informing young people "that ART can dramatically reduce the likelihood of sexual transmission of HIV."
Although the three-pronged message—safer sex practices, disclosure of HIV status to sexual partners, and adherence to ART regimens—is not new, targeted and innovative intervention strategies are needed to reach this important group of adolescents and reinforce healthy behaviors, the team of authors concluded.
Infectious Diseases Society of America: http://www.idsociety.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Treating patients with the deadly Ebola virus takes doctors, drugs, and a whole lot of chlorine.
For decades, smokers in eastern Europe have used cytisine from laburnum trees to help them quit. Good results in a new trial could make cytisine much more popular
The National Institutes of Health has approved requests for waivers from a moratorium on experiments that aim to make the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome more infectious in mice.
It's all fun and games until someone dislocates a knee, wets himself or has a stroke
Use of synthetic drugs, like bath salts, by young people continues to decline across the nation, according to a study by the University of Michigan.
Researchers are struggling with how to balance the benefits and risks of genetic experiments that can give viruses new talents for causing infections.
For all the medicine they provide at this center, physicians and staff from Doctors Without Borders spend as much time encouraging the patients to eat, drink, and keep fighting. Every patient gets a standard regimen of antibiotics, paracetemol and other pain medications, vitamins, oral rehydration therapy or intravenous fluids. Drugs can control nausea for those who need them; everyone gets antimalarials.
Dengue sickens millions of people each year, and there's no cure. Now scientists have found powerful antibodies that stop the virus. Their discovery offers a road map to develop a simple vaccine.
British doctors make the case for playing music during an operation
Doughnuts? No thank you. An edible powder made from stuff our gut bacteria excrete can stop people gaining weight when taken daily