Age plays a significant factor in HIV care, according to a recent data analysis by Irene Hall and coauthors in JAMA Internal Medicine. In the analysis, Hall and her colleagues found that of the estimated HIV-positive U.S. population between the ages of 13 and 24, only 31% were being treated with antiretroviral medication and 59% didn't even know they were positive.
The researchers also found that out of the 1.1 million Americans who were HIV-positive in 2009, those between the ages of 25 and 44 also had lower rates for all aspects of care and antiretroviral medications than older people.
Researchers are still trying to determine the reasons for the differences between age groups, but cost of treatment may well be a factor, with younger people making lower salaries and often burdened with student loan debt.
According to a 2011 analysis by the Pew Research Center, households headed by adults younger than 35 had 68% less wealth than they did 25 years prior. If this trend continues, it is likely that future generations of HIV-infected individuals will not be able to afford the care they need most.
Hall and her colleagues conclude in the analysis that "additional efforts are needed to ensure that all persons with HIV receive a diagnosis and optimal care to reduce morbidity, mortality, disparities in care and treatment, and ultimately HIV transmission. Ensuring that people stay in care and receive treatment will increase the proportion of HIV-infected individuals who achieve and maintain a suppressed viral load."