Children with perinatal HIV infection and exposure are more likely to experience negative psychosocial effects compared with unexposed children, according to a study published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society.
Children who were perinatally HIV-infected had higher levels of distress and depressive symptoms compared with uninfected children; HIV-affected (infected or exposed) children were more likely to have low self-esteem and diminished positive outlook compared with HIV-unaffected children.
The study, led by Sarah K Zalwango, MBBS, MS, included 58 perinatally HIV-infected participants, 56 HIV-exposed uninfected participants, and 54 unexposed controls. The researchers determined perinatal HIV status by using a DNA-polymerase chain-reaction test when the participants were 18 months of age, confirming the results via HIV rapid diagnostic test during follow-up from ages 6 to 18 years. The researchers measured 5 indicators of psychosocial adjustment: depressive symptoms, distress, hopelessness, positive future orientation, and esteem. They analyzed the HIV-status–related percent differences (β) in PA indicators.
Children who were perinatally infected with HIV had significantly lower positive outlook (β=-3.8) and self-esteem (β=-4.3) compared with controls and exposed uninfected children. Perinatally infected children also had significantly elevated depressive symptoms (β=11.4) and distress (β=12.3) compared with controls and exposed uninfected children.
Exposed uninfected children had significantly lower positive outlook (β=-4.3) and self-esteem compared with HIV-unexposed children. HIV-exposed uninfected and HIV-unexposed children had similar depressive symptom and distress levels.
“Psychosocial interventions as an integral component of HIV care for infected children or primary care exposed uninfected children may improve [psychosocial adjustment] and quality of life in these vulnerable groups,” wrote the researchers.
- Zalwango SK, Kizza FN, Nkwaya AK, et al. Psychosocial adjustment in perinatally human immunodeficiency virus infected or exposed children – a retrospective cohort study. J Int AIDS Soc. 2016; 19:20964.