Sunday, December 5, 2021

Adolescents without parental support risk failing HIV treatment

A study among Botswana adolescents found that found that adolescents living with AIDS who are not supported by their parents are more than four times most likely to fail their HIV treatment compared to those who get parental support.

Dr. Elizabeth Lowenthal who conducted the study says “”developing strategies to improve communication between adolescents and their parents and adolescents and their healthcare providers is important for the support of adolescents with HIV and other chronic diseases. In resource-limited settings, where the vast majority of HIV-infected adolescents live, we need to investigate strategies that can be sustainable with limited financial support.”

Dr. Lowenthal a pediatrician with expertise in HIV care of children and adolescents was between 2004 and 2008 the Clinic Director of the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence (Botswana, Africa), providing care and treatment for over 1500 HIV-infected children and adolescents. She is currently a staff physician at the Special Immunology Family Care Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she provides both general pediatric care and HIV-related care.

She explained that between 2005 and 2012, HIV related deaths declined by 30% worldwide. However, during the same period, HIV related deaths increased 50% among adolescents. Over 90% of HIV-infected children and adolescents live in sub-Saharan Africa and HIV is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa.

Treatment is available that can allow babies born with HIV to live to be healthy adults. However, strict adherence to these medicines is necessary and often becomes a great challenge during adolescence. In our study of 300 adolescents (ages 10-19) in Botswana, my team found that adolescents who come to clinic without a parent or guardian have a 4.5X greater odds of failing their HIV treatment.”

She stated that “frequently, during early adolescence, patients with chronic diseases are relatively good about taking their medications. Parents often give these adolescents more autonomy over their own healthcare before they are truly ready to sustain excellent adherence to their medicines long-term. Patients need to ask for help when they need it and clinicians and parents need to provide as much support as they can in a nonjudgmental manner, especially during the challenging late┬áadolescent years. The lives of these young people depend on this support.”

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