Feasibility and Effectiveness of Early Initiation of Combination Antiretroviral Therapy in HIV-infected Infants in a Government Clinic of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

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A recent randomized trial showed dramatic improvement in survival of HIV-infected infants receiving early combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). However, few data are available for resource-limited settings. Therefore we conducted a chart review of HIV-infected infants initiated on cART between 2005 and 2008. Of 129 treated infants, 94 completed 6 months, 62 completed 12 months, and 39 completed 18 months of cART. Median age at initiation of cART was 8.6 months (range 2.1–11.9) and 77.2% had advanced disease. Undetectable VL was found in 78.8% of children who reached 18 months of treatment. CD4% increased from a median of 15.4% at baseline to 33.1% at 18 months. Weight for age Z-score increased from a mean ± SD of −2.7 ± 1.97 to 0.02 ± 1.10 at 18 months. Findings show favourable response to cART in HIV-infected infants outside a research environment, despite initial advanced disease. Efforts should be made to initiate cART as early as possible.

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