Background: Factors associated with initiation of sexual activity among perinatally human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected (PHIV(+)) youth, and the attendant potential for sexual transmission of antiretroviral (ARV) drug-resistant HIV, remain poorly understood.
Methods: We conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of PHIV(+) youth aged 10-18 years (mean, 13.5 years) enrolled in the US-based Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study between 2007 and 2009. Audio computer-assisted self-interviews (ACASI) were used to collect sexual behavior information.
Results: Twenty-eight percent (95% confidence interval [CI], 23%-33%) (92/330) of PHIV(+) youth reported sexual intercourse (SI) (median initiation age, 14 years). Sixty-two percent (57/92) of sexually active youth reported unprotected SI. Among youth who did not report history of SI at baseline, ARV nonadherence was associated with sexual initiation during follow-up (adjusted hazard ratio, 2.87; 95% CI, 1.32-6.25). Youth living with a relative other than their biological mother had higher odds of engaging in unprotected SI than those living with a nonrelative. Thirty-three percent of youth disclosed their HIV status to their first sexual partner. Thirty-nine of 92 (42%) sexually active youth had HIV RNA ≥5000 copies/mL after sexual initiation. Viral drug resistance testing, available for 37 of these 39 youth, identified resistance to nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors in 62%, nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors in 57%, protease inhibitors in 38%, and all 3 ARV classes in 22%.
Conclusions: As PHIV(+) youth become sexually active, many engage in behaviors that place their partners at risk for HIV infection, including infection with drug-resistant virus. Effective interventions to facilitate youth adherence, safe sex practices, and disclosure are urgently needed.