In Utero Antiretroviral Exposure and Risk of Neurodevelopmental Problems in HIV-Exposed Uninfected 5-Year-Old Children

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2023 Mar;37(3):119-130. doi: 10.1089/apc.2022.0189. Epub 2023 Feb 24.


Studies have observed neurodevelopmental (ND) challenges among young children perinatally HIV-exposed yet uninfected (CHEU) with in utero antiretroviral (ARV) exposure, without clear linkage to specific ARVs. Atazanavir (ATV) boosted with ritonavir has been a preferred protease inhibitor recommended for pregnant women, yet associations of ATV with ND problems in CHEU have been reported. Studies among early school-age children are lacking. The pediatric HIV/AIDS cohort study (PHACS) surveillance monitoring for antiretroviral therapy (ART) toxicities (SMARTT) study evaluated 5-year-old monolingual English-speaking CHEU using the behavior assessment system for children, Wechsler preschool and primary scales of intelligence, and test of language development-primary. A score ≥1.5 standard deviations worse than population norms defined a signal within each domain. Analyses of risk for signals were stratified by timing of any ARV initiation. Associations between ARV exposure and risk of ND signals were assessed using proportional odds models, adjusting for confounders. Among 230 children exposed to ARVs at conception, 15% had single and 8% had multiple ND problems; ATV exposure was not associated with higher risk of signals [adjusted cumulative odds ratio (cOR) = 0.66, confidence interval (CI): 0.28-1.56]. However, among 461 children whose mothers initiated ARVs during pregnancy, 21% had single and 12% had multiple ND problems; ATV exposure was associated with higher risk of signals (cOR = 1.70, CI: 0.82-3.54). The specific regimen tenofovir/emtricitabine/ATV was associated with higher risk (cOR = 2.31, CI: 1.08-4.97) relative to regimens using a zidovudine/lamivudine backbone combined with non-ATV ARVs. It remains important to monitor neurodevelopment of CHEU during early childhood and investigate the impact and the role of timing of in utero exposure to specific ARVs.

Keywords: antiretroviral; concomitant neurodevelopmental problems; prenatal; preschool.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Anti-HIV Agents* / adverse effects
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious* / drug therapy


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents
  • Anti-HIV Agents