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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29294. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029294. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

Risk factors for pre-treatment mortality among HIV-infected children in rural Zambia: a cohort study.

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Department of Epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



Many HIV-infected children in sub-Saharan Africa enter care at a late stage of disease. As preparation of the child and family for antiretroviral therapy (ART) can take several clinic visits, some children die prior to ART initiation. This study was undertaken to determine mortality rates and clinical predictors of mortality during the period prior to ART initiation.


A prospective cohort study of HIV-infected treatment-naïve children was conducted between September 2007 and September 2010 at the HIV clinic at Macha Hospital in rural Southern Province, Zambia. HIV-infected children younger than 16 years of age who were treatment-naïve at study enrollment were eligible for analysis. Mortality rates prior to ART initiation were calculated and risk factors for mortality were evaluated.


351 children were included in the study, of whom 210 (59.8%) were eligible for ART at study enrollment. Among children ineligible for ART at enrollment, 6 children died (mortality rate: 0.33; 95% CI:0.15, 0.74). Among children eligible at enrollment, 21 children died before initiation of ART and their mortality rate (2.73 per 100 person-years; 95% CI:1.78, 4.18) was significantly higher than among children ineligible for ART (incidence rate ratio: 8.20; 95% CI:3.20, 24.83). In both groups, mortality was highest in the first three months of follow-up. Factors associated with mortality included younger age, anemia and lower weight-for-age z-score at study enrollment.


These results underscore the need to increase efforts to identify HIV-infected children at an earlier age and stage of disease progression so they can enroll in HIV care and treatment programs prior to becoming eligible for ART and these deaths can be prevented.

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