Objective: To determine the validity of an algorithm used by primary care health workers to identify children with symptomatic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. This HIV algorithm is being implemented in South Africa as part of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI), a strategy that aims to improve childhood morbidity and mortality by improving care at the primary care level. As AIDS is a leading cause of death in children in southern Africa, diagnosis and management of symptomatic HIV infection was added to the existing IMCI algorithm.
Methods: In total, 690 children who attended the outpatients department in a district hospital in South Africa were assessed with the HIV algorithm and by a paediatrician. All children were then tested for HIV viral load. The validity of the algorithm in detecting symptomatic HIV was compared with clinical diagnosis by a paediatrician and the result of an HIV test. Detailed clinical data were used to improve the algorithm.
Findings: Overall, 198 (28.7%) enrolled children were infected with HIV. The paediatrician correctly identified 142 (71.7%) children infected with HIV, whereas the IMCI/HIV algorithm identified 111 (56.1%). Odds ratios were calculated to identify predictors of HIV infection and used to develop an improved HIV algorithm that is 67.2% sensitive and 81.5% specific in clinically detecting HIV infection.
Conclusions: Children with symptomatic HIV infection can be identified effectively by primary level health workers through the use of an algorithm. The improved HIV algorithm developed in this study could be used by countries with high prevalences of HIV to enable IMCI practitioners to identify and care for HIV-infected children.