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Trop Med Int Health. 2007 May;12(5):594-602.

Early growth of infants of HIV-infected and uninfected Zambian women.

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Lusaka District Health Management Team, Lusaka, Zambia.



Parental HIV infection may affect even those exposed children who remain uninfected. We investigated early growth, an indicator of overall health, of infants born to Zambian mothers recruited for a study of breastfeeding and postpartum health.


HIV-infected and uninfected women in Lusaka were followed regularly from late pregnancy to 16 weeks postpartum. Infant weight and length were measured at birth, 6 and 16 weeks. Infant HIV status could not be specifically determined in this cohort so comparisons were between all infants of HIV-uninfected mothers (n = 184) and those infants of HIV-infected mothers who were known to be alive and showed no clinical evidence of HIV infection at age 2-4 years (n = 85).


Most infants were exclusively or predominantly breastfed until 16 weeks. At all time points infants of HIV-infected mothers tended to have lower weight and length standard deviation (Z) scores (significant for weight at 6 weeks; P = 0.04), even after adjustment for their lower gestational age at birth, compared with infants of uninfected mothers. In multivariate analyses the major factors affecting weight or length at 6 or 16 weeks of age were birth weight or length, and maternal subclinical mastitis, primiparity and weight during pregnancy.


Early growth of infants of HIV-infected mothers is less than that of uninfected mothers, in part associated with subclinical mastitis, and this effect cannot be overcome with intensive support of mothers to follow international recommendations regarding exclusive breastfeeding.

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