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Int J STD AIDS. 2009 Dec;20(12):820-7. doi: 10.1258/ijsa.2009.009229.

Non-vertical HIV transmission to children in sub-Saharan Africa.

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  • 1School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, USA.


This review considers whether HIV prevalence data on children in sub-Saharan Africa support the hypothesis that blood exposures account for a large proportion of HIV infections in Africa. Data from a systematic search on HIV-infected children support two analyses. In 25 studies where the mothers' HIV status was not matched with data on each child (excluding non-representative samples of children), the observed prevalence in children in 20 studies was greater than expected from vertical transmission. The population-weighted difference - 1.3% - was approximately one-third of observed prevalence in children. In 32 studies that match HIV-positive children with HIV-negative mothers, 406 discordant mother-child pairs were identified, and in studies identifying at least five non-vertical infections in children, 17.5% of HIV-positive children had HIV-negative mothers. In discussing an important role for unsafe health care in exceptionally rapid HIV transmission in Africa, leading AIDS researchers cite low HIV prevalence in children not yet sexually active. The assumption that childhood HIV prevalence would increase with age in children, if injections transmitted HIV is shown to be erroneous; it fails to account for early mortality in HIV-positive children. Evidence of child-to-child HIV transmission supports the theory that nosocomial infections are important to the AIDS pandemic, and procedures more prevalent than blood transfusions, such as injections, are likely involved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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