Past-Year Violence Victimization is Associated with Viral Load Failure Among HIV-Positive Adolescents and Young Adults

Katherine G. Merrill, Jacquelyn C. Campbell, Michele R. Decker, John McGready, Virginia Burke, Jonathan K. Mwansa, Sam Miti, Christiana Frimpong, Caitlin E. Kennedy, Julie A. Denison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined the relationship between past-year violence victimization and viral load (VL) failure among consecutively-sampled male and female adolescents and young adults, aged 15–24, in four HIV clinics in Ndola, Zambia. Measures of past-year physical violence, psychological abuse, and forced sex were adapted from the ICAST-C and WHO Multi-Country Study. Using logistic regression, we derived associations between VL failure (≥ 1000 copies/mL) and: any victimization; cumulative victimization; and types and perpetrators of violence. Among 272 youth (59.2% female, 72.8% perinatally infected), 73.5% (n = 200) experienced past-year violence and 36.8% (n = 100) had VL failure. Higher odds of VL failure were observed for participants who reported high frequency of any violence versus no violence victimization (adjusted OR, aOR: 3.58; 95% CI 1.14–11.27), high frequency of psychological abuse versus no psychological abuse (aOR: 3.32; 95% CI 1.26–8.70), any versus no violence from a family member other than a parent/caregiver for physical violence (aOR: 2.18, 95% CI 1.05–4.54) and psychological abuse (aOR: 2.50; 95% CI 1.37–4.54), and any versus no physical violence from a friend/peer (aOR: 2.14, 95% CI 1.05–4.36). Past-year violence victimization was associated with VL failure when considering the frequency, type, and perpetrator of violence. Programs addressing violence among youth living with HIV may be critical to improving viral suppression and preventing onward transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1373-1383
Number of pages11
JournalAIDS and behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • HIV
  • Violence
  • Viral load
  • Young adult
  • Zambia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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