Review: An urgent need for research on factors impacting adherence to and retention in care among HIV-positive youth and adolescents from key populations


INTRODUCTION: The 50% increase in HIV-related deaths in youth and adolescents (aged 10-24) from 2005 to 2012 highlights the need to improve HIV treatment and care in this population, including treatment adherence and retention. Youth and adolescents from key populations or young key populations (YKP) in particular are highly stigmatized and may face additional barrier(s) in adhering to HIV treatment and services. We reviewed the current knowledge on treatment adherence and retention in HIV care among YKP to identify gaps in the literature and suggest future directions to improve HIV care for YKP. METHODS: We conducted a comprehensive literature search for YKP and their adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and retention in HIV care on PsycInfo (Ovid), PubMed and Google Scholar using combinations of the keywords HIV/AIDS, ART, adolescents, young adults, adherence (or compliance), retention, men who have sex with men, transgender, injection drug users, people who inject drugs and prisoners. We included empirical studies on key populations defined by WHO; included the terms youth and adolescents and/or aged between 10 and 24; examined adherence to or retention in HIV care; and published in English-language journals. All articles were coded using NVivo. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The systematic search yielded 10 articles on YKP and 16 articles on behaviourally infected youth and adolescents from 1999 to 2014. We found no studies reporting on youth and adolescents identified as sex workers, transgender people and prisoners. From existing literature, adherence to ART was reported to be influenced by age, access to healthcare, the burden of multiple vulnerabilities, policy involving risk behaviours and mental health. A combination of two or more of these factors negatively impacted adherence to ART among YKP. Collectively, these studies demonstrated that future programmes need to be tailored specifically to YKP to ensure adherence. CONCLUSIONS: There is an urgent need for more systematic research in YKP. Current limited evidence suggests that healthcare delivery should be tailored to the unique needs of YKP. Thus, research on YKP could be used to inform future interventions to improve access to treatment and management of co-morbidities related to HIV, to ease the transition from paediatric to adult care and to increase uptake of secondary prevention methods.


Lall P, Lim SH, Khairuddin N, Kamarulzaman A.




  • Determinants of Health
    • Stigma/discrimination
  • Population(s)
    • Men who have sex with men
    • Children or Youth (less than 18 years old)
    • Transgender communities
    • People who use drugs
    • Prisoners
  • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Retention in care
    • Treatment


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