Advances in HIV research in the past two decades have enabled those with the disease to live more normal lives, keeping the virus in check and down to minimum levels within their bodies. This does note mean, however, that everyone positive for HIV is conscientious in maintaining their health.
A new study published in the journal AIDS has shown that more than 30% of men aged 12 to 24 with or at risk for HIV may be considered as having “high” levels of HIV. This means that levels of the virus were found to be higher in their blood than in older HIV patients.
“This is not a time for complacency,’’ said Dr. Bill Kapogiannis, co-author of the study and the scientific director of the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN). “Our results suggest that all health care providers who work with young people – particularly those who work with males who have sex with other males – should stress the urgency of getting tested, and, if infected, into treatment, which benefits their own health as well as reduces transmission to others.”
According to Kapogiannis and his colleagues, the high levels of HIV viral load found in these young men is common for those who have recently acquired the disease. This means that younger men could be at greater risk of passing on HIV to others. This possibility is compounded by the fact that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 60% of youth with HIV to not know they have the disease.
It’s important to get these individuals into treatment early, not only for the sake of their own health, but also for that of others, because many youth don’t even know they are infected and may risk unknowingly transmitting the virus during this time,” said Kapogiannis.