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Strategies to Treat and Prevent HIV in the United States for Adolescents and Young Adults: Protocol for a Mixed-Methods Study



Over 20% of HIV diagnoses in the United States are among youth aged 12-24 years. Furthermore, youth have the lowest rates of uptake and adherence to antiretroviral (ARV) medications and are least aware of their HIV status.


Our objective was to design a set of interrelated studies to promote completion of each step of the HIV Prevention Continuum by uninfected youth at high risk (YHR), as well as completion of steps in the Treatment Continuum by youth living with HIV (YLH).


Gay, bisexual, and transgender youth; homeless youth; substance-abusing youth; youth with criminal justice contact; and youth with significant mental health challenges, particularly black and Latino individuals, are being recruited from 13 community-based organizations, clinics, drop-in centers, and shelters in Los Angeles and New Orleans. Youth are screened on the basis of self-reports and rapid diagnostic tests for HIV, drug use, and sexually transmitted infections and, then, triaged into one of 3 studies: (1) an observational cohort of YLH who have never received ARV medications and are then treated-half initially are in the acute infection period (n=36) and half with established HIV infection (n=36); (2) a randomized controlled trial (RCT) for YLH (N=220); and (3) an RCT for YHR (N=1340). Each study contrasts efficacy and costs of 3 interventions: an automated messaging and weekly monitoring program delivered via text messages (short message service, SMS); a peer support intervention delivered via social media forums; and coaching, delivered via text message (SMS), phone, and in-person or telehealth contacts. The primary outcomes are assessing youths' uptake and retention of and adherence to the HIV Prevention or Treatment Continua. Repeat assessments are conducted every 4 months over 24 months to engage and retain youth and to monitor their status.


The project is funded from September 2016 through May 2021. Recruitment began in May 2017 and is expected to be completed by June 2019. We expect to submit the first results for publication by fall 2019.


Using similar, flexible, and adaptable intervention approaches for YLH and YHR, this set of studies may provide a roadmap for communities to broadly address HIV risk among youth. We will evaluate whether the interventions are cost-efficient strategies that can be leveraged to help youth adhere to the actions in the HIV Prevention and Treatment Continua.

International registered report identifier (irrid)


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