Many youths don’t tell part­ners about HIV

Study urges com­mu­ni­ca­tion to stop in­fec­tion

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NATION - By Natalie Grover

Nearly one in four youths liv­ing with HIV in the U.S. doesn’t no­tify sex or drug-use part­ners about po­ten­tial ex­po­sure — de­spite med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and oth­ers urg­ing them to do so, a study of teens and young adults sug­gests.

This high-risk pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to con­tract HIV at alarm­ing rates, so iden­ti­fy­ing in­di­vid­u­als un­aware of their in­fec­tion is im­per­a­tive to pre­vent fur­ther trans­mis­sion, the study team writes in the Jour­nal of Ac­quired Im­mune De­fi­ciency Syn­drome.

A sur­pris­ing find­ing from this sur­vey-based study was that 81.7 per­cent of par­tic­i­pants re­ported not hav­ing been con­tacted by a part­ner about their own po­ten­tial ex­po­sure to HIV, said lead au­thor Ja­cob J. van den Berg of the Brown Univer­sity School of Pub­lic Health in Providence, Rhode Is­land.

It’s pos­si­ble that their part­ners had no con­tact in­for­ma­tion for them, or that at­tempts to con­tact them were un­suc­cess­ful. It is also con­ceiv­able that they were tested be­fore their part­ners be­came aware of their own in­fec­tion, the study au­thors point out.

Still, “this num­ber is in­cred­i­bly high con­sid­er­ing that at least one per­son should have con­tacted them re­gard­ing their own po­ten­tial ex­po­sure ac­cord­ing to cur­rent Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion guide­lines,” van den Berg told Reuters Health in an email.

For the study, the re­searchers re­cruited 924 mostly male par­tic­i­pants be­tween 13 and 24 from 14 ado­les­cent medicine clin­ics. All the par­tic­i­pants had been “be­hav­iorally in­fected,” for ex­am­ple, through sex or drug use.

Over­all, more than three quar­ters of the par­tic­i­pants re­ported that, once they learned they were HIV pos­i­tive, they con­tacted all or at least some of their past sex or drug-use part­ners to no­tify them they may have been ex­posed to HIV. An­other 22.4 per­cent of par­tic­i­pants did not suc­ceed or didn’t try to con­tact for­mer part­ners.

The study team found that youths who had them­selves been con­tacted about po­ten­tially be­ing ex­posed to HIV were more likely to en­gage in part­ner no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

They also found that sur­vey par­tic­i­pants were more likely to no­tify past part­ners if more than one per­son had talked to them about no­ti­fi­ca­tion. That re­sult is the “big­gest take­away” from the study, said Adam Co­hen, di­rec­tor of ad­vo­cacy and pol­icy re­search at the AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion in Los An­ge­les.

Co­hen, who wasn’t in­volved in the study, also high­lighted the find­ing that more than 80 per­cent of sur­vey par­tic­i­pants were not them­selves no­ti­fied of po­ten­tial HIV ex­po­sure. “There is a se­ri­ous dis­crep­ancy be­tween dis­cussing part­ner no­ti­fi­ca­tion and en­gag­ing in part­ner no­ti­fi­ca­tion,” he said by email.

The au­thors ac­knowl­edge that lim­i­ta­tions of the study in­clude the fact that par­tic­i­pants were al­ready in care, so they might be more likely than youths out­side the med­i­cal sys­tem to no­tify their part­ners. Be­cause the data on no­ti­fi­ca­tion was self-re­ported, though, it’s also pos­si­ble that par­tic­i­pants ex­ag­ger­ated how of­ten they no­ti­fied part­ners.

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