A study published by the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS) shows that, as with adults, disclosure of a positive HIV status to potential sex partners can be difficult for teenagers who were born HIV-positive. Of the 330 teens in this report, however, 18% did not know that they were HIV-positive.
Among the teens, 28% had engaged in sexual intercourse. Of these, 62% reported unprotected sex, while 33% disclosed their HIV status to their first sexual partners.
Of the 92 teens engaging in sexual intercourse, 42% had an HIV viral load greater than 5,000 copies/ml (uncontrolled infection). One of the research authors, George R. Seage III, D.Sc., M.P.H., of the Harvard School of Public Health, said that it may help youth adhere to their HIV therapy if it was explained to them "that ART [anti-retroviral therapy] can dramatically reduce the likelihood of sexual transmission of HIV."
The study concluded that, "As PHIV+ [perinatally HIV-positive, or infected at birth] youth become sexually active, many engage in behaviors that place their partners at risk for HIV infection, including infection with drug-resistant virus. Effective interventions to facilitate youth adherence, safe sex practices, and disclosure are urgently needed."
The full-text PHACS study, "Sexual Risk Behavior Among Youth with Perinatal HIV Infection in the United States," published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, is available at oxfordjournals.org. The study also pointed to guidelines for making children and teenagers aware of their HIV infection, from the American Academy of Pediatrics; see pediatrics.aappublications.org.
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