PURPOSE - To describe the Reaching for Excellence in Adolescent Care and Health (REACH) Project of the Adolescent Medicine Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) Research Network, a unique collaborative effort to conceive and implement a research design intended to examine HIV pathogenesis, pubertal hormonal variation, and the effects of sexually transmitted disease comorbidity in HIV-infected youth to improve their health care.
METHODS - This multidisciplinary team has drawn on basic science and clinical experience to produce a study design with relevant and feasible study aims and testable hypotheses. Particular attention has been paid to centralized training and quality control practices. Standardized measurements include direct and computer interviews, physical examination, laboratory analysis, and medical chart abstraction. The protocol has been approved by local institutional review boards.
RESULTS - A highly standardized and quality control monitored protocol has been implemented at 16 sites throughout the United States collecting historical, observational, and laboratory data in a group of HIV-infected adolescents and HIV-negative controls. Preliminary data collected on subjects are consistent with published reports of the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of the HIV epidemic in sexually active youth, thus supporting the integrity of the protocol development process. The study population is, for the most part, in older adolescence, predominantly minority and female, and with publicly financed or no health insurance.
CONCLUSIONS - The REACH Project is positioned to address questions about the clinical course, immunologic profile, and viral dynamics in HIV-positive youth, and thus is able to inform drug development and management strategies for this understudied population.