Neuropsychological performance in African children with HIV enrolled in a multisite antiretroviral clinical trial

AIDS. 2018 Jan 14;32(2):189-204. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001683.


Objective and design: Children with HIV infection (HIV+) are at neuropsychological risk, but few studies have evaluated this at multiple sites in low-income and middle-income countries. We compared neuropsychological outcomes at enrollment (>5 years age) among HIV+, HIV perinatally exposed uninfected (HEU), and HIV unexposed uninfected (HUU) children from four sub-Saharan countries.

Methods: IMPAACT P1060 compared nevirapine versus lopinavir/ritonavir-based antiretroviral treatment (ART) in HIV-infected children 6-35 months of age. The present study (P1104s) enrolled P1060 children at 5-11 years of age and evaluated their neuropsychological performance over 2 years using the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, 2nd edition (KABC-II), Tests of Variables of Attention (TOVA), Bruininks-Oseretsky Test, 2nd edition (BOT-2), and parent-reported Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF). Cohorts were compared using generalized estimating equations least-squares means adjusted for site, child age and sex, and personal and social characteristics for child and caregiver.

Results: Six hundred and eleven (246 HIV+, 183 HEU, 182 HUU) of the 615 enrolled at six sites [South Africa (three), Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda] were available for analysis. Mean age was 7.2 years, 48% male, 69% in school. Unadjusted and adjusted comparisons were consistent. HIV+ children performed significantly worse than HEU and HUU cohorts on all KABC-II cognitive performance domains and on BOT-2 total motor proficiency (P < 0.001), but not on the BRIEF Global Executive Indices. HUU and HEU cohorts were comparable on cognitive outcomes. HIV+ children initiated on ART before 1 year of age had significantly better BRIEF evaluations (lower scores - fewer behavior problems), compared with those started after (P = 0.03).

Conclusion: Significant cognitive deficits were documented among HIV+ children at school age, even when started on ART at an early age. Earlier HIV treatment, neuropsychological monitoring, and rehabilitative interventions are all needed. Subsequent testing for 2 more years will help further evaluate how HIV infection and exposure affect the developmental trajectory.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents