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Paediatric antiretroviral treatment programmes in sub-Saharan Africa: a review of published clinical studies

Mary-Ann Davies
Matthias Egger
Olivia Keiser
Andrew Boulle


Knowledge of the experience and outcomes of current paediatric antiretroviral treatment (ART) programmes in sub-Saharan Africa can inform new programmes in the region as well as enhance existing ones. This is urgently needed to facilitate the scale-up of treatment, which is needed to address the burden of paediatric HIV cases on the continent. We reviewed the characteristics and outcomes of programmes with clinical paediatric ART studies published prior to 1 January 2008. The outcomes of the studies were comparable to similar ones from developed countries; however, the duration of follow-up was relatively limited in almost all the studies reviewed. One-year survival probability was between 84% and 91%, and considerable improvement in the clinical, immunologic and viral status of the paediatric patients was generally recorded. Loss to follow-up was less than 10% in all but two studies. Adherence to treatment was good and few adverse events were reported. This is despite the fact that many programmes were subject to enormous constraints in terms of health services, and despite widespread use of adult fixed-dose combinations for paediatric patients, including young infants. While the majority of children commencing ART were severely ill, most children were old (median age >5 years for almost all studies) with relatively few infants and young children (age <2 years) receiving treatment. This is in contrast to knowledge of rapid disease progression in the majority of HIV-infected  infants and despite the World Health Organization’s recent recommendations to commence ART in all HIV-infected infants less than one year old. There is an urgent need to address barriers to ART for infants. Studies of the outcomes of programmes treating infants as well as those with longer-term follow-up are also needed.

Keywords: children, growth monitoring, HIV/AIDS, infants, mortality, programme assessment, survival, treatment issues, treatment practices, WHO guidelines

African Journal of AIDS Research 2009, 8(3): 329–338

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eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445