In 2016, persons aged 13–29 years represented 23.1% of the US population, yet accounted for 41.7% of HIV diagnoses. Racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionally affected by HIV. Sustaining viral suppression helps persons living with diagnosed HIV infection (PLWDH) stay healthy and reduces the risk of transmitting HIV. We examined racial/ethnic disparities in sustained viral suppression and transmission risk potential among PLWDH aged 13–29 years.
We analyzed data from the National HIV Surveillance System reported through December 2018 from 42 jurisdictions with complete laboratory reporting. We included persons aged 13–29 years who received an HIV diagnosis by December 31, 2015, most recently resided in one of the 42 jurisdictions, and were alive at the end of 2016. Sustained viral suppression was defined as viral load <200 copies/mL for all tests in 2016. Transmission risk potential was estimated using the number of days with viral loads >1500 copies/mL.
Of the 90,812 PLWDH aged 13–29 years included in the analysis, 41.5% had sustained viral suppression in 2016. Across age, sex, and most transmission categories, blacks had the lowest prevalence of sustained viral suppression. Among the 28,154 who were in care but without sustained viral suppression, the average number of days with viral load >1500 copies/mL was 206 days (56.4% of the 12-month period).
Sustained viral suppression was suboptimal and transmission risk potential was high for PLWDH aged 13–29 years. Racial/ethnic disparities were apparent, calling for strengthening tailored interventions to improve care outcomes.