What increases the risk of HIV infection among adolescents and young adults?

Updated: Mar 16, 2020
  • Author: David J Cennimo, MD, FAAP, FACP, AAHIVS; Chief Editor: Michelle R Salvaggio, MD, FACP  more...
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The number of cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among young adolescents has been increasing over the years. Adolescents and young adults often acquire HIV through sexual activity and are thus excellent candidates for intervention and prevention programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 26% of the approximately 50,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV infection in 2010 were aged 13-24 years. In this age group, 57% of the infections were in young black persons, and 75% were in young men who have sex with men (MSM). Many are recently infected or unaware of their HIV infection status, which may increase the risk of transmission. [1] Early intervention, including prevention strategies, counseling, and HIV testing, plays a key role in treating adolescents and young adults. [2]

In contrast, perinatal HIV infection is relatively rare in the United States, and most perinatally infected youth are now older and aging out of pediatric care, setting the stage for an increased need for transitional care. Many of these young adults are very treatment-experienced and can harbor significant HIV resistance mutations and comorbidities associated with past treatment. Mental health issues have been reported in up to 70% of perinatally infected youth, potentially complicating treatment and adherence. [1]

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