A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health examined the relationship between adolescent motherhood and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Eastern and Southern Africa females, where over half of all HIV infections among adolescent girls occur. The research team, led by Allison K. Groves, PhD, MHS, reported that they observed a “robust” association between adolescent motherhood and HIV infection among 10 high-burden countries.

The trial used Demographic and Health Survey data on a total of 19,932 girls (15–19 years of age) with documented HIV test results. The participants were from the regions of Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Researchers used a mixed effects logistic regression model with a country-level random intercept to calculate the proportion of total variance at the country level.

According to the results, nearly one fifth of adolescent girls were mothers (range: 9.80–38.90%), and the prevalence of HIV was 3.3% (range: 1.03–10.07%). Relative to nonmothers, adolescent mothers were generally poorer, older, and more likely to be married, rural dwellers, or household heads. Bivariate and multivariable analyses showed that adolescent motherhood was positively correlated with HIV infection (odds ratio [OR] = 1.87; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.57–2.23; adjusted OR = 1.53; 95% CI, 1.24–1.89).

The growing understanding of the high risk of HIV infection faced by adolescent girls across sub-Saharan Africa has driven improvements in health and social welfare in the population, according to Groves and colleagues. However, the researchers contested that HIV researchers and prevention program implementors have often missed meeting the needs of this population. The authors closed with a recommendation for targeted interventions designed in collaboration with adolescent mothers, and which have “the potential to profoundly impact the health of adolescent mothers and their children.”

Source: Journal of Adolescent Health