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News Picture: Age Makes the Difference in Sticking With HIV Meds

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 12, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Young people with HIV have much lower rates of viral suppression than adults with the AIDS-causing virus, a new U.S. study finds.

Viral suppression means that HIV has been reduced to undetectable levels. Maintaining viral suppression for at least six months prevents the sexual transmission of HIV and helps people with the virus remain healthy.

Researchers assessed more than 1,400 patients ages 12 to 24 with HIV who were referred to a nationwide treatment network.

Of those, 75% were enrolled in care, with 34% remaining in care and beginning antiretroviral treatment. Twelve percent achieved viral suppression after a median of nearly five months. (Median means half took less time, half took longer.)

That rate of viral suppression is much lower than the range of 32% to 63% found among adults older than 24, despite similar rates of care in both age groups, according to the authors of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

The results suggest that after young people enroll in an HIV treatment program, only a low percentage stick with it.

“Our findings indicate an urgency for research on how best to tailor HIV intervention services to the needs of youth,” study first author Dr. Bill Kapogiannis said in an NIH news release. He’s a researcher in the Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Diseases Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The sooner young people were referred to care after an HIV diagnosis, the more likely they were to achieve viral suppression, according to the study.

Those referred within one to six weeks of diagnosis were 2.5 times more likely to achieve viral suppression than those referred after three months. Those referred between six weeks and three months of diagnosis were about twice as likely to achieve viral suppression, the study found.

Having peer counselors and maintaining frequent contact through text and social media messages helps shorten the time from HIV diagnosis to enrollment in care, according to the researchers.

But they added that other strategies are urgently needed to ensure that youth enroll and remain in care.

— Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, Feb. 10, 2020