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.

Continue Reading

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.


  1. 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.