This observational study included neuropsychological evaluations of 611 children in sub-Saharan Africa. After controlling for age, sex and certain socioeconomic and family factors, the researchers found that participants with HIV had poorer performance on cognitive ability, motor function and attention tests compared to participants without HIV in the two comparator groups, at all three time points. Notably, participants with HIV had significantly less improvement in planning and reasoning abilities than their HIV-negative peers over time. On each test, researchers observed no significant differences between HIV-negative children exposed to HIV and those never exposed to HIV.
The landmark Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy (CHER) study found in 2008 that immediately initiating ART improved overall health outcomes among infants and children with HIV. However, these new findings suggest that some children may experience neuropsychological difficulties over time, even when HIV is well controlled. Together, these data highlight the need to investigate the underlying mechanism of these neuropsychological challenges, and to develop additional interventions to support children who acquire HIV early in life.
This summary commentary is from the NIH media advisory. The full study is available by clicking the red “preview” button.