Background: Early treatment studies have shown that prompt treatment of HIV with combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) can limit the size of latent viral reservoirs, thereby providing clinical and public health benefits. Studies have demonstrated that adolescents have a greater capacity for immune reconstitution than adults. Nevertheless, adolescents who acquired HIV through sexual transmission have not been included in early treatment studies because of challenges in identification and adherence to cART.
Objective: This study aimed to identify and promptly treat with cART youth aged 12 to 24 years in Los Angeles and New Orleans who have acute, recent, or established HIV infection, as determined by Fiebig stages 1 to 6 determined by viral RNA polymerase chain reaction, p24 antigen presence, and HIV-1 antigen Western blot. The protocol recommends treatment on the day of diagnosis when feasible. Surveillance and dedicated behavioral strategies are used to retain them in care and optimize adherence. Through serial follow-up, HIV biomarkers and response to antiretroviral therapy (ART) are assessed. The study aims to assess viral dynamics, decay and persistence of viral reservoirs over time, and correlate these data with the duration of viral suppression.
Methods: A total of 72 youth (36 acutely infected and 36 treatment naïve controls) are enrolled across clinical sites using a current community-based strategy and direct referrals. Youth are prescribed ART according to the standard of care HIV-1 management guidelines and followed for a period of 2 years. Assessments are conducted at specific time points throughout these 2 years of follow-up for monitoring of adherence to ART, viral load, magnitude of HIV reservoirs, and presence of coinfections.
Results: The study began enrolling youth in July 2017 across study sites in Los Angeles and New Orleans. As of September 30, 2018, a total of 37 youth were enrolled, 12 with recently acquired, 16 with established HIV infection as determined by Fiebig staging, and 9 pending determination of Fiebig status. Recruitment and enrollment are ongoing.
Conclusions: We hypothesize that the size of the HIV reservoir and immune activation markers will be different across groups treated with cART, that is, those with acute or recent HIV infection and those with established infection. Adolescents treated early who are virally suppressed will have diminished HIV reservoirs than those with established infection. These youth may be potential candidates for a possible HIV vaccine and additional HIV remission intervention trials. Our study will inform future studies of viral remission strategies.
International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/10807.
Keywords: HIV; adolescents; youth.
©Karin Nielsen-Saines, Kate Mitchell, Tara Kerin, Jasmine Fournier, Leslie Kozina, Brenda Andrews, Ruth Cortado, Robert Bolan, Risa Flynn, Mary Jane Rotheram, Sue Ellen Abdalian, Yvonne Bryson, Adolescent Medicine Trials Network (ATN) CARES Team. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (http://www.researchprotocols.org), 16.01.2019.