HIV-positive teens and young adults frequently do not enter medical care for HIV until relatively late in the course of the disease. Publishing their findings in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers combed records of almost 1,500 people with HIV between the ages of 12 and 24 who were seen in 13 clinics across the United States between 2002 and 2010.

Between 30 and 45 percent of these young people sought treatment for HIV when they already had a CD4 count below 350, qualifying them as having entered care late. Those with lower CD4 counts tended to have higher viral loads, making them more likely to transmit the virus to others.

The likelihood that black youths entered care with a CD4 count under 350 was more than double that of white youths. Latino young people were 1.7-times as likely as whites to enter care late. Men were more likely than women to seek care late. And men infected heterosexually tended to enter care later than those infected through sex with other men.

“These are decidedly disappointing findings that underscore the need to develop better ways to diagnose teens sooner and, just as importantly, to get them into care and on therapy sooner,” lead investigator Allison Agwu, MD, an infectious disease specialist and HIV expert at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, said in a release.

“Clinicians need to get away from their own preconceived notions about who gets infected, stop risk-profiling patients and test across the board,” Agwu said.

To read the release, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.