Study: Digital Health Interventions Needed to Improve Outcomes for Youth with HIV

Kenneth Bender, PharmD, MA
Published Online: Wednesday, August 15th, 2018
A review of the research on computer-based "eHealth" and mobile platform "mHealth" interventions to enhance treatment adherence among youth infected with HIV found proven feasibility and benefits of many of these interventions and concluded that these should now be scaled up and their proven components widely adopted.

Traditional approaches to improve treatment adherence and outcomes in youth with HIV have been inadequate, according to Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, Behavior and Technology Lab, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, and colleagues.

"Targeted interventions are urgently needed to improve the knowledge of undiagnosed HIV infection, access to and retention in prevention and care, medication adherence, and long-term viral load outcomes among youth at risk for or infected with HIV," Hightow-Weidman and colleagues declared, in a separate report from their Innovative Technology (ITECH) program at the University of North Carolina.

In the ITECH report, the investigators cite stark statistics demarking this population: over one-fifth (22%) of all new HIV infections in the US occur among persons in the youth age category, 13 to 24 years, and at the end of 2013, an estimated 60,900 youth in the US were living with HIV. Of these individuals, 51% (31,300) were living with undiagnosed HIV, the highest rate of undiagnosed HIV in any age group, according to the investigators. Furthermore, data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System indicated that only 21% of high-school-aged males having sex with males had ever been tested for HIV.

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