Child Growth According to Maternal and Child HIV Status in Zimbabwe

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Growth failure is common among HIV-infected infants, but there are limited data on the effects of HIV exposure or timing of HIV acquisition on growth.


Fourteen thousand one hundred ten infants were enrolled in the Zimbabwe Vitamin A for Mothers and Babies trial in Zimbabwe before the availability of antiretroviral therapy or co-trimoxazole. Anthropometric measurements were taken from birth through 12–24 months of age. Growth outcomes were compared between 5 groups of children: HIV-infected in utero (IU), intrapartum (IP) or postnatally (PN); HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU); and HIV unexposed.


Growth failure was common across all groups of children. Compared with HIV-unexposed children, IU-, IP- and PN-infected children had significantly lower length-for-age and weight-for-length Z scores throughout the first 2 years of life. At 12 months, odds ratios for stunting were higher in IU [6.25, 95% confidence interval (CI): 4.20–9.31] and IP infants (4.76, 95% CI: 3.58–6.33) than in PN infants (1.70, 95% CI: 1.16–2.47). Compared with HIV-unexposed infants, HEU infants at 12 months had odds ratios for stunting of 1.23 (95% CI: 1.08–1.39) and wasting of 1.56 (95% CI: 1.22–2.00).


HIV-infected infants had very high rates of growth failure during the first 2 years of life, particularly if IU or IP infected, highlighting the importance of early infant diagnosis and antiretroviral therapy. HEU infants had poorer growth than HIV-unexposed infants in the first 12 months of life.

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