Aims: The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) potentially causes a significant encephalopathy and resultant developmental delay in infected children. The aim of this study was to determine whether a home-based intervention programme could have an impact on the neurodevelopmental status of children infected with HIV.
Method: A longitudinal, randomized, controlled trial was conducted. A total of 122 children aged less than 2 years 6 months were assigned to either a comparison or an experimental group. Children in the experimental group were given a home stimulation programme that was updated every 3 months. The home programme included activities to promote motor, cognitive, and speech and language development. Children in the comparison group received no developmental intervention. Children were assessed by a blinded assessor at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, 2nd edition.
Results: The children in this study came from poor socioeconomic backgrounds and their nutritional status was suboptimal. The experimental group included 60 children (30 males, 30 females) with a mean age of 18 months (SD 8.1 mo). The comparison group included 62 children (32 males, 30 females) with a mean age 19 months (SD 8.2 mo). Cognitive and motor development were severely affected at baseline, with 52% of the children having severe cognitive delay and 72% having severe motor delay at baseline. Children in the experimental group showed significantly greater improvement in cognitive (p=0.010) and motor (p=0.020) development over time than children in the comparison group.
Interpretation: A home stimulation programme taught to the caregiver can significantly improve cognitive and motor development in young children infected with HIV.