The HIV Continuum of Care for Adolescents and Young Adults Attending 13 Urban US HIV Care Centers of the NICHD-ATN-CDC-HRSA SMILE Collaborative

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2020 May 1;84(1):92-100. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000002308.


Background: Almost one-quarter of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States occur among persons aged 13-24 years. These youths have the poorest HIV care continuum (HCC) outcomes, yet few empirical youth-specific data are available.

Methods: The Strategic Multisite Initiative for the Identification, Linkage, and Engagement in Care of HIV-infected youth (SMILE) helped HIV-infected (mostly newly diagnosed) youth, aged 12-24 years, link to youth-friendly care, and evaluated each milestone of the HCC (October 2012-September 2014). Numbers of HIV-infected youth referred, linked, engaged, and retained in care were recorded, along with sociodemographics. Viral suppression (VS) was defined as ≥1 HIV viral load (VL) below the level of detection on study. Correlates of VS were examined using Cox proportional hazards models.

Results: Among 1411 HIV-infected youth, 1053 (75%) were linked, 839 (59%) engaged, and 473 (34%) retained in care at adolescent health care sites. Antiretroviral therapy was initiated among 474 (34%), and 166 (12%) achieved VS. Predictors of VS included lower VL at baseline [aHR 1.56 (95% CI: 1.32-1.89), P < 0.0001], recent antiretroviral therapy receipt [aHR 3.10 (95% CI: 1.86-5.18), P < 0.0001], and shorter time from HIV testing until referral to linkage coordinator [aHR 2.52 (95% CI: 1.50-4.23), P = 0.0005 for 7 days to 6 weeks and aHR 2.08 (95% CI: 1.08-4.04), P = 0.0294 for 6 weeks to 3 months compared with >3 months].

Conclusions: Although this large national sample of predominately newly diagnosed youths linked to care at similar rates as adults, they achieved disproportionately lower rates of VS. Prompt referral to youth-friendly linkage services was an independent predictor of VS. Youth-focused interventions are urgently needed to improve their HCC outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Child
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • United States
  • Urban Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Viral Load
  • Young Adult