HIV Positive Teens Tend to Wait Too Long Before Seeking Treatment

HIV treatments have come a long way. They are in part responsible for the improved quality and length of life for patients that are HIV positive. There is some concern, however, for the younger generation. According to one study in particular, teens and young adults seem to delay treatment and care for HIV. Many do nothing at all until they are in the advanced stages of disease. While there may be a variety of reasons for this, there may be ways to help improve the situation. Here is what the researchers found.

An eight year project tracked 1,500 young people to see how they responded to being HIV-positive. They ranged in age from 12 to 24. The study showed that almost half of the participants did not seek treatment until the disease progressed into later stages. This did not come as good news. Early treatment is key to keeping secondary disease (such as cardiac disease, kidney disease, and other conditions) at bay. Beginning treatment early is another way to improve quality of life and even lengthen life expectancy.

One way to observe the advancement of HIV is through a blood test. By tracking the number of a certain type of protein known as CD4, doctors can determine how far along the HIV has progressed. Treatment is usually started when the CD4 count begins to drop. Once the number drops low enough, the disease is considered AIDS. Unfortunately, young people have been waiting long periods of time to be tested and start antiviral therapy.

Exactly why teens wait so long has not yet been studied. Researchers assume that there may be several reasons for the delay; however, they hope that through increased awareness, doctors will start screening all young patients for HIV. Making this a part of a regular checkup may make it easier for young ones to seek treatment earlier.