Pregnant adolescents living with HIV: what we know, what we need to know, where we need to go

J Int AIDS Soc. 2017 Aug 4;20(1):21858. doi: 10.7448/IAS.20.1.21858.


Introduction: HIV-infected pregnant and breastfeeding adolescents are a particularly vulnerable group that require special attention and enhanced support to achieve optimal maternal and infant outcomes. The objective of this paper is to review published evidence about antenatal care (ANC) service delivery and outcomes for HIV-infected pregnant adolescents in low-income country settings, identify gaps in knowledge and programme services and highlight the way forward to improve clinical outcomes of this vulnerable group.

Discussion: Emerging data from programmes in sub-Saharan Africa highlight that HIV-infected pregnant adolescents have poorer prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) service outcomes, including lower PMTCT service uptake, compared to HIV-infected pregnant adults. In addition, the limited evidence available suggests that there may be higher rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission among infants of HIV-infected pregnant adolescents.

Conclusions: While the reasons for the inferior outcomes among adolescents in ANC need to be further explored and addressed, there is sufficient evidence that immediate operational changes are needed to address the unique needs of this population. Such changes could include integration of adolescent-friendly services into PMTCT settings or targeting HIV-infected pregnant adolescents with enhanced retention and follow-up activities.

Keywords: HIV; PMTCT cascade; Pregnant adolescents; antenatal care; infant outcomes; retention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections* / transmission
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy*
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Young Adult

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