Horizontally-acquired HIV infection in Kenyan and Swazi children

Int J STD AIDS. 2009 Dec;20(12):852-7. doi: 10.1258/ijsa.2009.009204.


Despite many reports of HIV-infected African children who have HIV-uninfected mothers, little is known about the extent and modes of horizontal HIV transmission in African children. We estimated the extent of horizontal HIV transmission in Swazi children by comparing child and mother HIV statuses in the 2006-2007 Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey (DHS). To identify correlates of horizontal HIV transmission, we conducted a case-control study of Kenyan children with horizontally acquired HIV infections and their uninfected siblings. Of 50 HIV-positive Swazi children in the DHS, 11 (weighted percent = 20, 95% confidence interval 11-33%) had HIV-negative mothers. These 11 children represented 0.6% of all Swazi children aged 2-12 who lived with their mothers. In the Kenyan study, children with horizontally acquired HIV infections had more kinds of blood exposures than their uninfected siblings. In particular, punctures related to health care for suspected malaria (phlebotomy, injection and infusion), injections while hospitalized and dental surgery (especially by informal providers) were more common in infected children. Horizontal HIV transmission appears to be common in some sub-Saharan African countries, and blood exposures seem to be the most likely routes of transmission. Rigorous surveillance and investigation of horizontally acquired HIV infection in children are urgently needed, along with universal public education about risks of specific blood exposures and ways to avoid them.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blood-Borne Pathogens*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Eswatini
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • HIV-1
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Siblings*