Fifteen Years Too Soon: FDA Approves HIV Drug for Teens

The FDA cleared the adult-recommended dosage on April 15. Not everyone is ready to pop the pill. In an e-mail interview, Michael Schwartz, a medical student who participated in The Hidden Crisis of HIV…

Fifteen Years Too Soon: FDA Approves HIV Drug for Teens

The FDA cleared the adult-recommended dosage on April 15. Not everyone is ready to pop the pill.

In an e-mail interview, Michael Schwartz, a medical student who participated in The Hidden Crisis of HIV in America, called the age of 19 “far too early.”

“I don’t think it’s great for teenagers to be subjected to a lifelong illness that can adversely affect them,” he said. “There is no vaccine for HIV or other STDs. Testing at 18 isn’t very effective for prevention, and it’s far too early to get a shot against a disease that tends to grow in men and women who have unprotected sex.”

That said, Mr. Schwartz said that “there are drugs that do not need to be tested in individuals before the FDA can certify their use. In some cases, sexual orientation is not an issue because many people say they are ‘no longer gay’ in their 30s. Perhaps the Department of Health would be better off making these changes at a later date and then requiring the drug companies to test the drug as the result.”

Dr. Robert Kushner, a clinical professor of infectious diseases at New York University School of Medicine, likened the development of antiviral medications to “someone seeing a zombie movie and asking if they should watch it.”

“There’s lots of hypotheticals,” he said. “Maybe we should do something about how much teenagers should be exposed to the virus in the first place. Then we can better address vaccine development, testing and implementation.”

Professor Kushner referred to vaccine trials designed to predict antibodies in children younger than 3 and in infants whose mothers were infected with HIV.

“I’m not recommending that anyone follow the regimens you’re listing there,” he said. “But I think we can argue on that.”

Dr. Moses Kailani is a psychiatry professor and the founding director of the center for HIV/AIDS research and treatment at New York University Langone Medical Center. While the conditions of two children are different, he said, the medical consensus is that vaccines are helpful, and those who do not want to be vaccinated are not in a position to decide what’s best for others.

So, what are a few teens thinking?

Alice Mathews, who was 16 when she was infected by an HIV-infected boyfriend, said that she was, “just kind of surprised because I don’t think there’s enough information out there.”

If the drug helps young people stay healthy, “it’s a good idea,” said Ms. Mathews, who is now 21.

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