The neurodevelopment of HIV-infected infants on HAART compared to HIV-exposed but uninfected infants

AIDS Care. 2014 Apr;26(4):497-504. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2013.841828. Epub 2013 Oct 14.


The aim of this study was to compare the neurodevelopment of HIV-infected (HI) infants in combination with antiretroviral therapy also known as HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) to HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) infants. Twenty-seven HIV infected and 29 HEU infants under the age of one year attending the Empilweni Clinic at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital were studied. HI infants were assessed prior to initiating HAART and then for six months whilst on HAART. Neurodevelopment was assessed using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd ed (Bayley III). The HI infants scored significantly lower when compared to HEU infants for motor and language development at baseline, three months and six months follow up. No significant improvement in language (p = 0.46) and motor function (p = 0.91) occurred over time; however, developmental scores did not decrease. Cognitive development in the HI group was significantly lower when compared to the HEU group at visit one (p = 0.003). By six months follow-up, there were no significant differences between the two groups for cognitive development (p = 0.18). This study suggests that HIV-positive infants are delayed when compared to HEU infants. HAART may help to prevent further delay; however, it does not reverse the neurological damage already present. There is a need for therapists to be involved in pediatric HIV clinical services in order to provide early developmental screening as well as rehabilitative services to those children in need.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / adverse effects*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / methods
  • Child
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Language Development
  • Male
  • Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Nervous System / growth & development
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Socioeconomic Factors