Intrauterine HIV exposure is associated with linear growth restriction among Ethiopian children in the first 18 months of life

Trop Med Int Health. 2022 Sep;27(9):823-830. doi: 10.1111/tmi.13805. Epub 2022 Aug 17.


Objective: The role of HIV exposure in determining growth among HIV-uninfected children is debated. We determined whether intrauterine HIV exposure influences linear growth in a cohort of Ethiopian children followed up to 18 months of age in public health facilities in Adama city, Ethiopia.

Methods: Participants were offspring of pregnant women enrolled in a prospective cohort study that included screening for HIV infection during antenatal care. Growth patterns of HIV-exposed and uninfected (HEU) and HIV-unexposed (HU) children were compared up to 18 months of age, with length-for-age z-score (LAZ) and proportion with stunting as primary outcomes. Multivariable linear and logistic regression models were constructed to investigate the associations between HIV exposure and linear growth, controlling for socio-demographic factors and breastfeeding status.

Results: Of 1705 included infants (164 HEU), 1276 remained in follow-up at 18 months. Among HIV-positive mothers, 132 (80.5%) were receiving antiretroviral therapy at enrolment. At the 18-month visit, mean LAZ was -1.08 among HEU children and -0.74 among HU children (p = 0.052). Proportions of HEU and HU children with stunting at the 18-month visit were 27.8% and 18.7%, respectively (p = 0.010). In multivariable models, HIV exposure was associated with lower LAZ at all follow-up visits, and with stunting at the 18-month visit (adjusted odds ratio 2.29, 95% confidence interval 1.40-3.71). HIV exposure was not associated with weight-related growth outcomes.

Conclusions: HEU children in Ethiopia had inferior linear growth compared with HU children, implying that intrauterine HIV exposure impacts early childhood growth in this setting.

Keywords: HIV; child; growth; length; nutrition; stunting; uninfected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ethiopia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / complications
  • Growth Disorders / etiology
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious* / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies