Home » Headline, News

Young, HIV-Positive Minority Men Who Have Sex With Men Are Less Likely To Take Antiretrovirals

No Comment By
Published: Sep 1, 2011 9:18 am
Young, HIV-Positive Minority Men Who Have Sex With Men Are Less Likely To Take Antiretrovirals

The results of a recent study indicate that the use of antiretroviral therapy is low among young, African-American men and other men of color, such as Hispanics, who have sex with men.

Dr. Lisa Hightow-Weidman, lead investigator of this study and a clinical assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, pointed out that while the overall use of antiretroviral therapy was low, patients on it did remarkably well.

“This indicates to me that when provided with tools to improve adherence and when in a care setting in which these young men feel safe and respected, they can remain adherent to their [medication] and achieve [viral load] suppression,” she explained in correspondence with The AIDS Beacon.

The researchers also found that alcohol use was associated with low antiretroviral therapy use, which the authors suggested may be due to the fact that doctors are less likely to prescribe antiretrovirals to patients who abuse alcohol.

The authors recommended greater efforts to decrease alcohol abuse among young men who have sex with men. They also suggested continued efforts to increase the use and initiation of antiretroviral therapy among racial and ethnic minority men who have sex with men, and greater implementation of support services to encourage adherence.

“[Men who have sex with men], particularly young men, need to be educated and empowered to take control of their health, including talking with providers about medications and safer sex,” said Dr. Hightow-Weidman.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 50,000 new cases of HIV in the U.S. every year, with men who have sex with men accounting for about 60 percent of new infections.

In particular, young men who have sex with men (ages 13 to 29 years old) accounted for 27 percent of new HIV infections in the U.S. in 2009, and the rate of new HIV infections among young, African-American men who have sex with men increased almost 50 percent, from 4,400 HIV infections in 2006 to 6,500 infections in 2009.

In this study, researchers investigated health care use and health outcomes in 155 HIV-positive racial and ethnic minority young men who have sex with men. According to the study authors, poor health care use is associated with poorer control of HIV infections and higher mortality rates.

The authors hypothesized that many young minority men who have sex with men and who are eligible for HIV treatment under treatment guidelines would not be taking antiretrovirals. They also speculated that use of HIV care in this population would be influenced by age, mental health status, and drug or alcohol problems.

Current U.S. treatment guidelines state that HIV-positive adults with CD4 (white blood cell) counts less than 350 cells per microliter should start treatment. The guidelines also recommend starting treatment at CD4 counts between 350 and 500 cells per microliter.

Results showed that 45 percent of men with CD4 counts less than or equal to 350 cells per microliter of blood were not taking or prescribed antiretroviral therapy. In addition, 80 percent of men with CD4 counts greater than or equal to 350 cells per microliter of blood were not taking or prescribed antiretrovirals.

However, results also showed that a majority of study participants taking antiretrovirals (74 percent) successfully achieved undetectable viral loads (amount of HIV in the blood), defined in this study as less than 400 copies per milliliter of blood.

The researchers found no link between participants’ age or mental health status and whether they initiated antiretroviral therapy or successfully achieved undetectable viral loads.

However, alcohol use was significantly different among men who started therapy and men who did not. In particular, men on therapy were less likely to have consumed alcohol in the two weeks prior to a follow-up examination.

For more information, please see the study in AIDS Patient Care and STDs (abstract).

Photo by lupzdut on Flickr – some rights reserved.
Tags: , , , , ,


Related Articles: