HIV-Positive Teens Not Taking Antiretroviral Drugs as Required, Study Shows
Only 41% of HIV-positive teens take their anti-viral medication as prescribed, raising the risk both to themselves and to the community, according to a study of 161 teens published in the February issue of AIDS Care. Reuters Health reports that researchers determined depression to be one of the main reasons for noncompliance, as only 29% of teens profiled who were depressed took their medication as required. Study authors recommend that health care workers screen and treat adolescent depression before better compliance can be expected. But even among non-depressed teens, only 55% demonstrated full compliance, leading researchers to conclude that the quantity of pills needed to be consumed each day also presents a barrier to adherence. Study co-author Dr. Craig Wilson, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said, "It's not unusual for a patient to have to take three or four different drugs, three times a day. If such a regimen is hard for adults to follow, you can imagine the challenge it poses for less disciplined teenagers." However, the number of drugs in HIV treatment regimens may decrease in the "near future," researchers suggest, as drug companies develop longer-lasting medicines and combine multiple drugs in one pill. In the meantime, Wilson told Reuters Health, "Partial compliance not only allows the virus to multiply, but it encourages the growth of strains that may be resistant to currently available drugs. If others become infected with these new strains, it could create a public health problem" (Mazanec, Reuters Health, 3/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.