Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in adults and adolescents with HIV recommend that antiretroviral therapy (ART) be started as soon as possible. While rapid initiation of ART in adults with HIV has been well-described, there is relatively little information describing this approach for youth.
On April 1, 2018, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital began offering ART to youth with HIV infection at their first clinic visit. We report the results of a quality improvement initiative that compared patients who offered ART at their first visit to a historical cohort of patients who initiated ART at a subsequent visit. Demographic, HIV biomarker, and visit information were abstracted from medical records, described and compared using univariate statistical methods.
There were 124 ART-naive youth (median age 19 years, 91% male, 94% black) first seen during the indicated time period. A total of 54 patients were in the baseline cohort and 70 patients were in the rapid start cohort. 90% of youth in the rapid start cohort started ART on their first clinic visit. Time from first clinic visit to undetectable viral load was significantly higher in the baseline cohort compared with the rapid start cohort (median 54 vs. 41 days; P = 0.01). Retention in care 12 months following the first clinic visit was comparable and overall high (>80%).
Starting ART-naïve youth with HIV infection on ART at their first clinic visit is feasible, has high acceptance, leads to faster viral load suppression, and is associated with high retention in care.