Paediatric HIV and neurodevelopment in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

Abubakar A, Van Baar A, Van de Vijver FJ, Holding P, Newton CR
Trop Med Int Health. 2008;13

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OBJECTIVE: To determine the degree of motor, cognitive, language and social-emotional impairment related to HIV infection in children living in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). METHODS: Literature searches using MEDLINE and PsycINFO. Additionally, the reference lists of previous reviews were checked to ensure that all eligible studies were identified. Cohen's d, a measure of effect size, was computed to estimate the level of impairment. RESULTS: Six reports met the inclusion criteria. In infancy a consistent delay in motor development was observed with a median value of Cohen's d = 0.97 at 18 months, indicating a severe degree of impairment. Mental development showed a moderate delay at 18 months, with a median value d = 0.67. Language delay did not appear until 24 months of age, d = 0.91. Less clear findings occurred in older subjects. CONCLUSION: Although HIV has been shown to affect all domains of child functioning, motor development is the most apparent in terms of severity, early onset, and persistence across age groups. However, motor development has been the most widely assessed domain while language development has been less vigorously evaluated in SSA, hence an accurate quantitative estimate of the effect cannot yet be made.