Linear Growth Faltering Among HIV-Exposed Uninfected Children

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Abstract

Background:

HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) children experience increased mortality compared with their HIV-unexposed uninfected (HUU) peers. It is unclear whether HEU children are also at increased risk for undernutrition, a modifiable risk factor for mortality.

Methods:

We conducted a cross-sectional, population-based survey of children <5 years of age in 5 health districts in Botswana. Linear mixed-effects models were used to assess continuous outcomes, and generalized estimating equations were used to estimate relative risks of stunting, wasting, and underweight between HEU (n = 396) and HUU (n = 1109) children. Secondary analyses examined potential mediation by low birth weight.

Results:

The association between maternal HIV exposure and child stunting varied significantly by child age (P < 0.01). HEU children <1 and ≥2 years of age had 1.85 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.03 to 3.31; P = 0.04] and 1.41 (95% CI: 1.06 to 1.88; P = 0.02) times the risk of stunting compared with HUU children after multivariate adjustment, respectively. During the period of 1–2 years of age, when breastfeeding cessation occurred among HUU children, HUU children had increased risk of stunting compared with HEU children who were predominantly formula fed (relative risk: 1.56; 95% CI: 1.05 to 2.32; P = 0.03). A mediation analysis estimated that 67% of the excess risk of stunting among HEU children ≥2 years was attributable to low birth weight (P = 0.02). There was no difference in risk of wasting or underweight.

Conclusion:

HEU children are at increased risk of stunting compared with their HUU peers; however, interventions to increase birth weight may significantly ameliorate this excess risk. Interventions to support optimal growth during weaning are needed for all breast-fed children.

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