To assess patterns of morbidity and associated factors in late infancy and early childhood among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected and -uninfected African children.
The Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi.
Children with known HIV status from an earlier perinatal intervention trial were enrolled during the first year of life and followed to ∼36 months of age.
Morbidity and mortality information was collected every 3 months by a questionnaire. A physical examination was conducted every 6 months. Blood to determine CD4+ values was also collected. Age-adjusted and Kaplan-Meier analyses were performed to compare rates of morbidity and mortality among infected and uninfected children.
Overall, 808 children (190 HIV-infected, 499 HIV-uninfected but born to infected mothers, and 119 born to HIV-uninfected mothers) were included in this study. Of these, 109 died during a median follow-up of 18 months. Rates of childhood immunizations were high among all children (eg, lowest was measles vaccination [87%] among HIV-infected children). Age-adjusted morbidity rates were significantly higher among HIV-infected than among HIV-uninfected children. HIV-infected children were more immunosuppressed than were uninfected children. By 3 years of age, 89% of the infected children died, 10% were in HIV disease category B or C, and only ∼1% were without HIV symptoms. Among HIV-infected children, median survival after the first occurrence of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-related conditions, such as splenomegaly, oral thrush, and developmental delay, was <10 months. These same conditions, in addition to frequent bouts of fever, were the main morbidity predictors of mortality.
The frequency of diseases was high, and progression from asymptomatic or symptomatic HIV disease to death was rapid. Management strategies that effectively reduce morbidity for HIV-infected children are needed.