Co-occuring psychiatric symptoms in children perinatally infected with HIV and peer comparison sample

J Dev Behav Pediatr. Feb-Mar 2010;31(2):116-28. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e3181cdaa20.


Objective: To compare the rates of psychopathology in youths perinatally infected with HIV (N = 319) with a comparison sample of peers (N = 256) either HIV-exposed or living in households with HIV-infected family members.

Method: Participants were randomly recruited from 29 sites in the United States and Puerto Rico and completed an extensive battery of measures including standardized DSM-IV-referenced ratings scales.

Results: The HIV+ group was relatively healthy (73% with CD4% >25%), and 92% were actively receiving antiretroviral therapy. Youths with HIV (17%) met symptom and impairment criteria for the following disorders: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (12%), oppositional defiant disorder (5%), conduct disorder (1%), generalized anxiety disorder (2%), separation anxiety disorder (1%), depressive disorder (2%), or manic episode (1%). Many youths with HIV (27%) and peers (26%) were rated (either self- or caregiver report) as having psychiatric problems that interfered with academic or social functioning. With the exception of somatization disorder, the HIV+ group did not evidence higher rates or severity of psychopathology than peers, although rates for both groups were higher than the general population. Nevertheless, self-awareness of HIV infection in younger children was associated with more severe symptomatology, and youths with HIV had higher lifetime rates of special education (44 vs 32%), psychopharmacological (23 vs 12%), or behavioral (27 vs 17%) interventions. Youth-caregiver agreement was modest, and youths reported more impairment.

Conclusion: HIV infection was not associated with differentially greater levels of current psychopathology; nevertheless, investigation of relations with developmental changes and specific illness parameters and treatments are ongoing.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Education, Special
  • Family
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Peer Group
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Puerto Rico
  • Self Concept
  • United States


  • Anti-HIV Agents