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The purpose of this study was to determine whether alterations in body composition, resting energy expenditure (REE), and dietary energy intake are associated with growth retardation in HIV-positive children. Body composition (deuterium oxide dilution, skinfold measurements), REE (indirect calorimetry), and energy intake (24-hour weighed food intake) were evaluated in three groups: HIV-positive with growth retardation (HIV+Gr), HIV-positive with normal growth (HIV+); and HIV-uninfected with normal growth (HIV-). Children were between 2 and 11 years of age, afebrile, and free from acute infection. Forty-two children (13 HIV+Gr, 19 HIV+, 10 HIV-) were studied. Lean body mass was significantly reduced in HIV+Gr compared with HIV- (p < .05), and fat mass was significantly reduced in HIV+Gr and HIV+ compared with HIV- (p < .05). The percentages of lean and fat mass were not significantly different between groups, suggesting that differences in lean and fat mass were proportional to differences in body size. Consistent with reduced lean body mass, mean REE was significantly lower in HIV+Gr compared with HIV- (p < .05). Differences in mean REE/kg of body weight or lean body mass between groups were not statistically significant. A significant negative correlation was found between REE (kcal/kg/day) and weight-for-age (p = .04), and a trend with height-for-age Z-score (p = .07). Mean energy intake was not significantly different between groups. This study suggests that lean and fat mass are proportionately reduced in HIV-positive children with growth retardation. Further studies are necessary to delineate the relationship between energy balance and growth in children with HIV infection.