The National Institutes of Health has awarded $7.5 million for an international research program to prevent and treat HIV infection among adolescents and young adults in seven African countries and Brazil. The study, called Prevention and Treatment through a Comprehensive Care Continuum for HIV-affected Adolescents in Resource Constrained Settings (PATC3H), will support research to develop strategies to identify youth at risk of HIV infection and those living with HIV and to enroll them into medical care programs.
“It’s difficult to get high-risk adolescents into care, even under the best circumstances,” said Bill G. Kapogiannis, M.D., medical officer in the Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “In poorer countries, the problem is compounded by lack of access to basic health care facilities and, too often, social stigma against people with HIV.”
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS(link is external), an estimated 1.6 million people ages 15 and older worldwide were newly infected with HIV in 2017.
Funding for the PATC3H study will be provided by NICHD and other NIH components, including the Office of AIDS Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.
Dr. Kapogiannis explained that youth with HIV are less likely than adults to have their HIV infection diagnosed, to seek medical care, or to remain in the healthcare system if they have been diagnosed. Without medical care, young adults miss out on anti-HIV therapy, which keeps the virus in check and helps prevent its spread to others. Also, youth who are at high-risk for HIV infection often don’t access preventive treatments and interventions to reduce their chances of infection.
PATC3H researchers will devise and test strategies for reaching out to youth at-risk for HIV and for enrolling them into care. If the strategies are successful, they will receive additional funding to expand their care and treatment programs. The researchers have formed relationships with clinical sites and local agencies in the host countries involved in improving healthcare for at-risk youth. They also will collaborate with each other to refine and improve their individual programs.