Background: The aims of this study were to examine the impact of child HIV infection on mortality and to identify nutritional and sociodemographic factors that increase the risk of child mortality independent of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
Methods: We conducted a prospective study in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, among 687 children 6-60 months of age who were admitted to hospital with pneumonia. After discharge, children were followed up every 2 weeks during the first year and every 4 months thereafter. Sociodemographic characteristics were determined at baseline, and HIV status, haemoglobin, and malaria infection were assessed from a blood sample. During the first year of follow-up, we measured height, weight, and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) monthly. We estimated the risk of mortality according to HIV status and socio-economic characteristics using Cox proportional hazards models. Nutritional status variables (wasting and stunting) were examined as time-varying risk factors.
Results: Mean age at enrollment was 18 months. A total of 90 children died during an average 24.7 months of follow-up. HIV infection was associated with an adjusted 4-fold higher risk of mortality [relative risk (RR) = 3.92, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.34-6.55, P < 0.0001]. Other risk factors included child's age < 24 months, stunting, low MUAC, anaemia, and lack of water supply in the household. In models with time-varying covariates, stunting and wasting during the previous month were both significant and independently related to increased risk of death. HIV infection appeared to be a stronger predictor of mortality among children who were wasted than among those who were not (P for interaction = 0.05).
Conclusions: HIV infection is a strong predictor of death among children who have been hospitalized with pneumonia. Preventable conditions including inadequate water supply, child undernutrition, and anaemia contribute significantly to infant and child mortality independent of HIV infection.