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AIDS Care. 2011 Dec;23(12):1533-44. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2011.575120.

Mental health functioning among children and adolescents with perinatal HIV infection and perinatal HIV exposure.

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Children's Memorial Hospital, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, USA.


Mental health problems (MHPs) among children with perinatal HIV infection have been described prior to and during the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) era. Yet child, caregiver and socio-demographic factors associated with MHPs are not fully understood. We examined the prevalence of MHPs among older children and adolescents with perinatal HIV exposure, including both perinatally HIV-infected (PHIV +) and perinatally HIV-exposed but uninfected (PHEU) youth. Our aims were to identify the impact of HIV infection by comparing PHIV + and PHEU youth and to delineate risk factors associated with MHPs, in order to inform development of appropriate prevention and intervention strategies. Youth and their caregivers were interviewed with the Behavior Assessment System for Children, 2nd edition (BASC-2) to estimate rates of at-risk and clinically significant MHPs, including caregiver-reported behavioral problems and youth-reported emotional problems. The prevalence of MHPs at the time of study entry was calculated for the group overall, as well as by HIV status and by demographic, child health, and caregiver characteristics. Logistic regression models were used to identify factors associated with youth MHPs. Among 416 youth enrolled between March 2007 and July 2009 (295 PHIV +, 121 PHEU), the overall prevalence of MHPs at entry was 29% and greater than expected based on recent national surveys of the general population. MHPs were more likely among PHEU than among PHIV + children (38% versus 25%, p < 0.01). Factors associated with higher odds of MHPs at p < 0.10 included caregiver characteristics (psychiatric disorder, limit-setting problems, health-related functional limitations) and child characteristics (younger age and lower IQ). These findings suggest that PHEU children are at high risk for MHPs, yet current models of care for these youth may not support early diagnosis and treatment. Family-based prevention and intervention programs for HIV affected youth and their caregivers may minimize long-term consequences of MHPs.

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