Associations of Adverse Childhood Experiences With Key Health Outcomes and Viral Suppression Maintenance Among Tanzanian Youth Living With HIV

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Background: Despite improved access to HIV testing and medication, AIDS remains a leading cause of death among youth living with HIV (YLWH) in Tanzania. YLWH are prone to worse HIV outcomes than other age groups, which may be caused or mediated by mental health, social determinants of health (SDH), and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). In this study, the investigators sought to determine if ACEs were correlated with key health variables in hopes of better understanding the factors associated with negative HIV and mental health outcomes among Tanzanian youth. Additionally, the investigators aimed to observe longitudinal trends in virologic suppression to understand the extent to which undetectable = untransmittable or “U=U” messaging applies to the more volatile youth demographic. Finally, the investigators sought to identify patterns and predictors that could aid in understanding risk of virologic failure in this population. Methods: The investigators incorporated and merged secondary data from participants who were enrolled in both of two distinct studies to create a longitudinal database spanning from 2013 to 2020. Participant ACE scores were derived from trauma exposure questionnaires and were compared with data about mental health, stigma, SDH, sexual experiences, self-reported adherence and HIV RNA (viral load). Associations of ACEs and other key variables were performed using linear regression. Results: ACEs were common among YLWH, especially loss of a parent and physical abuse. ACEs were also correlated with both mental health outcomes and virologic failure. Of the 48 participants who were virologically suppressed at the beginning of the study, one third had subsequent virologic failure, which was often associated with changes in ACEs, medication regimen, and SDH. Conclusion: Understanding common ACEs in this vulnerable population has direct relevance for the design of targeted interventions to prevent and treat repercussions of childhood trauma and improve mental health and HIV outcomes. ACEs, experiences with suicide risk, and low social support are important correlates of virologic failure and should be an alert when considering repeat HIV RNA testing and eligibility for supportive services.






Brtek, Veronica Raquel (2022). Associations of Adverse Childhood Experiences With Key Health Outcomes and Viral Suppression Maintenance Among Tanzanian Youth Living With HIV. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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