Opioid use disorder: a neglected human immunodeficiency virus risk in American adolescents

Academic Article


  • In 2017 alone, 783 000 children aged 12-17 years misused opioids with 14 000 using heroin. Opioid misuse and opioid use disorder (OUD) in adolescents and young adults are significant barriers to ending the HIV epidemic. To address these synergistic scourges requires dedicated practitioners and improved access to life-saving evidence-based treatment. Adolescents and young adults make up over one in five new HIV diagnoses even though they are less likely to be tested or know they are infected. Adolescents and young adults living with HIV are less likely to be retained in care or achieve virological suppression. OUD further leads to increased rates of risky behaviours (like sex without condoms), deceased retention in HIV care and decreased rates of viral suppression in this vulnerable population. Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) are recommended for adolescents and young adults with severe OUD and help retain youth in HIV treatment and decrease risk of death. However, due to stigma and lack of experience prescribing MOUD in adolescents, MOUD is often perceived as a last line option. MOUD remains difficult to access for adolescents with a shortage of providers and decreased options for treatment as compared to adults. Addiction treatment is infection prevention, and integrated addiction and HIV services are recommended to improve health outcomes. A multipronged approach including patient education, provider training and policy changes to improve access to treatment and harm reduction are urgently needed confront the drug use epidemic in youth.
  • Published In

  • AIDS  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lloyd AR; Savage R; Eaton EF
  • Start Page

  • 2237
  • End Page

  • 2247
  • Volume

  • 35
  • Issue

  • 14