Human immunodeficiency virus postexposure prophylaxis for adolescents and children

Pediatrics. 2001 Aug;108(2):E38. doi: 10.1542/peds.108.2.e38.


Children and adolescents are at risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Transmission occurs through perinatal exposures, injecting drug use, consensual and nonconsensual sex, needle-stick and sharp injuries, and possibly some unusual contacts. Youth engaging in high-risk sexual activities are especially endangered. Half of the estimated worldwide 5.3 million new HIV infections occur in adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24. Of 20 000 known new adult and adolescent cases in the United States, 25% involve 13- to 21-year-olds. More than 1.4 million children worldwide (aged 15 and younger) are believed to be infected, and >1640 new cases are diagnosed daily. Of the 432 000 people reported to be living with HIV or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the United States, 5575 are children under 13. HIV postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a form of secondary HIV prevention that may reduce the incidence of HIV infections. HIV PEP is commonly conceived of as 2 types: occupational and nonoccupational. Occupational HIV PEP is an accepted form of therapy for health care workers exposed to HIV through their jobs. A landmark study of healthcare workers concluded that occupational HIV PEP may be efficacious. Well-established US national guidelines for occupational HIV PEP exist for this at-risk population. Nonoccupational HIV PEP includes all other forms of HIV PEP, such as that given after sexual assault and consensual sex, injecting drug use, and needle-stick and sharp injuries in non-health care persons. Pediatric HIV PEP is typically the nonoccupational type. The efficacy of nonoccupational HIV PEP is unknown. The presumed efficacy is based on a collection of animal and human data concerning occupational, perinatal, and nonoccupational exposures to HIV. In contrast to occupational HIV PEP, there are no national US guidelines for nonoccupational HIV PEP, and few recommendations are available for its use for adolescents and children. Regardless of this absence, there is encouraging evidence supporting the value of HIV PEP in its various forms in pediatrics. Although unproven, the presumed mechanism for HIV PEP comes from animal and human work suggesting that shortly after an exposure to HIV, a window period exists during which the viral load is small enough to be controlled by the body's immune system. Antiretroviral medications given during this period may help to diminish or end viral replication, thereby reducing the viral inoculum to a more potentially manageable target for the host's defenses. HIV PEP is accepted practice in the perinatal setting and for health care workers with occupational injuries. The medical literature supports prescribing HIV PEP after community needle-stick and sharp injuries and after sexual assault from sources known or likely to be HIV-infected. HIV PEP after consensual unprotected intercourse between HIV sero-opposite partners has had growing use in the adult population, and can probably be utilized for children and adolescents. There is less documented experience and support for HIV PEP after consensual unprotected intercourse between partners of unknown HIV status, after prolonged or multiple episodes of sexual abuse from an assailant of unknown HIV status, after bites, and after the sharing of personal hygiene items or exposure to wounds of HIV-infected individuals. There are no formal guidelines for HIV PEP in adolescents and children. A few groups have commented on its provision in pediatrics, and some preliminary studies have been released. Our article provides a discussion of the data available on HIV transmission and HIV PEP in pediatrics. In our article, we propose an HIV PEP approach for adolescents and children. We recommend a stratified regimen, based on the work of Gerberding and Katz and other authors, that attempts to match seroconversion risk with an appropriate number of medications, while taking into account adverse side-effects and the amount of information that is typically available upon initial presentation. Twice daily regimens should be used when possible, and may improve compliance. HIV PEP should be administered within 1 hour of exposure. We strongly recommend that physicians trained in this form of therapy review the indications for HIV PEP within 72 hours of its provision. We advocate that due diligence in determining level of risk and appropriateness of drug selection be conducted as soon as possible after an exposure has occurred. When such information is not immediately available, we recommend the rapid treatment using the maximum level of care followed by careful investigation and reconsideration in follow-up or whenever possible. HIV PEP may be initiated provisionally after an exposure and then discontinued if the exposure source is confirmed to not be HIV-infected. In most cases, consultations with the experts in HIV care can occur after the rapid start of therapy. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-HIV Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • HIV / drug effects
  • HIV / growth & development
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional / prevention & control
  • Needlestick Injuries / drug therapy
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Viral Load / statistics & numerical data
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Anti-HIV Agents