Neurological and neurocognitive function of HIV-infected children commenced on antiretroviral therapy

Brian Stephen Eley, Lara Smith, Colleen Adnams


Aim: To describe the effect of HIV infection on neurological and neurocognitive function in children commenced on antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and their short-term response to therapy

Methods: In this prospective study, 39 children (15 females) were evaluated before the start of HAART and 30 reassessed 6 months later. The subjects were evaluated with a range of cognitive tests used in every-day clinical practice.

Results: At enrolment, the mean (± SD) age was 60 ± 46 months, 17(44%) and 22(56%) had CDC clinical category B and C disease respectively, and 36(92%) had severe immunosuppression. At the start of HAART no child had cranial nerve or cerebellar dysfunction, but 13/29(33.3%) had evidence of motor dysfunction. By 6 months 1 child had developed cerebellar dysfunction, but there was no statistically significant change in the frequency of motor dysfunction. Mean baseline performances on cognitive testing were generally subnormal. Between 33% and 81% of the children recorded sub-normal intelligence quotients on various cognitive tests. Mean performances did not change significantly after 6 months of HAART.

Conclusion: Neurological and neurocognitive deficits are frequent in HIV-infected children. The prevalence and extent of deficits did not change significantly in response to short-term HAART, indicating neither spontaneous improvement nor deterioration during early treatment.

Authors' affiliations

Brian Stephen Eley, Red Cross Children's Hospital

Lara Smith, Red Cross Children's Hospital

Colleen Adnams, Red Cross Children's Hospital

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HIV-infection, HAART, neurocognitive function

Cite this article

South African Journal of Child Health 2008;2(3):108.

Article History

Date submitted: 2008-07-11
Date published: 2008-10-30

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