Background: A large cohort of antiretroviral therapy-naive, symptomatic, HIV-infected children were enrolled into a controlled therapeutic trial (AIDS Clinical Trials Group Protocol 152), providing an opportunity to describe their clinical and laboratory characteristics and determine age-related distinctions.
Methods: Study entry evaluations for 838 of 839 enrolled children were analyzed. Weight, head circumference (if < 30 months of age), neuroradiologic imaging of the head, developmental or cognitive status and neurologic examination were assessed. Laboratory studies included hemoglobin, absolute neutrophil count, CD4 cell count, serum amylase, alanine aminotransaminase, p24 antigen and HIV blood culture. Data were categorized by age (3 to < 12 months, 12 to < 30 months, 30 months to 6 years and > or = 6 years).
Results: Younger children had significantly higher rates of abnormalities before antiretroviral therapy, especially factors relating to growth and neurologic or cognitive function. Lower CD4+ cell counts and percentages as well as a positive serum p24 antigen correlated with lower weight-for-age Z scores and developmental indices.
Conclusions: These data provide a description of the clinical characteristics of HIV-infected US children at the time antiretroviral therapy is initiated for HIV-related symptoms. The high rate of abnormalities of growth, development and cognitive ability that were observed in children < 30 months of age demonstrates that treatment strategies should be developed for earlier intervention.