Characteristics of adolescents aged 15-19 years living with vertically and horizontally acquired HIV in Nampula, Mozambique

PLoS One. 2021 Apr 26;16(4):e0250218. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250218. eCollection 2021.


Background: Adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) 15-19 years of age are a growing proportion of all people living with HIV globally and the population includes adolescents with vertically acquired HIV (AVH) and behaviorally acquired HIV (ABH).

Methods: We conducted a survey to measure sociodemographic characteristics, educational status, health history, and antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence among a convenience sample of ALHIV at three government health facilities in 2019 in Nampula, Mozambique. ALHIV 15-19 years on ART, including females attending antenatal care, were eligible. Routine HIV care data were extracted from medical charts. Classification of ALHIV by mode of transmission was based on medical charts and survey data. ALHIV who initiated ART <15 years or reported no sex were considered AVH; all others ABH. Frequencies were compared by sex, and within sex, by mode of transmission (AVH vs. ABH) using Chi-square, Fishers exact tests and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests.

Results: Among 208 ALHIV, 143 (69%) were female and median age was 18 years [interquartile range (IQR) 16-19]. Just over half of ALHIV (53%) were in or had completed secondary or higher levels of education; the most common reason for not being in school reported by 36% of females was pregnancy or having a child. Of all ALHIV, 122 (59%) had VL data, 62% of whom were <1000 copies/mL. Almost half (46%) of ALHIV reported missing ARVs ≥ 1 day in the past month (62% of males vs. 39% of females; p = 0.003). Just over half (58%) of ALHIV in relationships had disclosed their HIV status: 13% of males vs. 69% of females (p<0.001). Among sexually active males, 61% reported using a condom at last sex compared to 26% of females (p<0.001). Among female ALHIV, 50 (35%) were AVH and 93 (65%) were ABH, 67% of whom were not in school compared to 16% of ABH, (p<0.001).

Discussion: Data from our study underscore the high level of deprivation among ALHIV enrolled in HIV care in Mozambique, as well as important disparities by sex and mode of transmission. These data can inform the development of effective interventions for this complex and important population.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Condoms
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / physiopathology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV-1 / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking / statistics & numerical data
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Mozambique / epidemiology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents