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Youth With HIV Take More Risks After New Meds Introduced

Teens with HIV are having more risky sex with more partners than their counterparts did in the years before powerful new medications for HIV were introduced in 1996, according to a new report in the American Journal of Health Behavior.

A group of HIV-positive youth studied between 1999 and 2000 reported having more sexual partners, more unprotected sex and more drug use than HIV-positive youth studied between 1994 and 1996, say Marguerita Lightfoot, Ph.D. and colleagues at the UCLA AIDS Institute at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

Highly active antiretroviral therapies, or HAART, were introduced in 1996. The new drugs have successfully lowered virus levels and prolonged the lives of thousands of HIV patients.

Although the new study does not prove that the introduction of HAART is the cause of increased risky behavior, "these findings indicate the need for continued attention to the issue of sexual risk and the impact of HAART," Lightfoot says.

The new study also suggests the lives of some HIV-positive teens have not improved with HAART. Lightfoot and colleagues found that the post-HAART group was in worse health, more likely to have been sexually abused and to be clinically distressed than the pre-HAART group.

"Targeted interventions for youth living with HIV that address risk behaviors and aim to improve quality of life are more needed now than ever before," the researchers write.

Although HAART use has significantly improved the care of HIV patients, the longer lives of those patients could mean more opportunities to transmit the virus to others, says Lightfoot.

"Simultaneously, evidence suggests that many people living with HIV believe that sexual behaviors that could lead to the transmission of HIV, like unprotected sex, are less risky" if viral levels are low, she adds.

Although some studies suggest a shift toward risky behavior in adults in the post-HAART era, (see http://www.cfah.org/hbns/new
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Source:Center For The Advancement Of Health


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