Objective: To identify clinical characteristics predicting death among inpatients who are infected with or exposed to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) during a period of pediatric antiretroviral therapy scale-up in sub-Saharan Africa.
Study design: Retrospective review of medical records from every child with HIV infection (n = 834) or exposure (n = 351) identified by routine inpatient testing in Kamuzu Central Hospital, Lilongwe, Malawi, September 2007 through December 2008.
Results: The inpatient mortality rate was high among children with HIV infection (16.6%) and exposure (13.4%). Clinically diagnosed Pneumocystis pneumonia or very severe pneumonia independently predicted death in inpatients with HIV infection (OR 14; 95% CI 8.2 to 23) or exposure (OR 21; CI 8.4 to 50). Severe acute malnutrition independently predicted death in children who are HIV infected (OR 2.2; CI 1.7 to 3.9) or exposed (OR 5.1; CI 2.3 to 11). Other independent predictors of death were septicemia, Kaposi sarcoma, meningitis, and esophageal candidiasis for children infected with HIV, and meningitis and severe anemia for inpatients exposed to HIV.
Conclusions: Severe respiratory tract infections and malnutrition are both highly prevalent and strongly associated with death among hospitalized children who are HIV infected or exposed. Novel programmatic and therapeutic strategies are urgently needed to reduce the high mortality rate among inpatients with HIV infection and HIV exposure in African pediatric hospitals.
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