Send to

Choose Destination
J Int AIDS Soc. 2017 Nov;20 Suppl 7. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25002.

The case for viral load testing in adolescents in resource-limited settings.

Author information

The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK.
Clinical Research Department, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
Biomedical Research and Training Institute, Harare, Zimbabwe.
National and Supranational Reference Laboratory, Research Centre Leibnitz, Borstel, Germany.



The success of HIV treatment programmes globally has resulted in children with perinatally acquired HIV reaching adolescence in large numbers. The number of adolescents living with HIV is growing further due to persisting high HIV incidence rates among adolescents in low- and middle-income settings, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Although expanding access to HIV viral load monitoring is necessary to achieve the 90-90-90 targets across the HIV care continuum, implementation is incomplete. We discuss the rationale for prioritizing viral load monitoring among adolescents and the associated challenges.


Adolescents with HIV are a complex group to treat successfully due to extensive exposure to antiretroviral therapy for those with perinatally acquired HIV and the challenges in sustained medication adherence in this age group. Given the high risk of treatment failure among adolescents and the limited drug regimens available in limited resource settings, HIV viral load monitoring in adolescents could prevent unnecessary and costly switches to second-line therapy in virologically suppressed adolescents. Because adolescents living with HIV may be heavily treatment experienced, have suboptimal treatment adherence, or may be on second or even third-line therapy, viral load testing would allow clinicians to make informed decisions about increased counselling and support for adolescents together with the need to maintain or switch therapeutic regimens.


Given scarce resources, prioritization of viral load testing among groups with a high risk of virological failure may be required. Adolescents have disproportionately high rates of virological failure, and targeting this age group for viral load monitoring may provide valuable lessons to inform broader scale-up.


HIV ; adolescent; resource-limited; viral load

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center