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Nutrition. 2016 Jun;32(6):667-73. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2015.12.035. Epub 2015 Dec 30.

Impact of highly active antiretroviral therapy on nutritional and immunologic status in HIV-infected children in the low-income country of Ethiopia.

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Department of General Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Haramaya University, Harar, Ethiopia.
School of Public Health, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Independent Public Health Consultants, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Electronic address:



HIV/AIDS and malnutrition combine to undermine the immunity of individuals and are inextricably interrelated. Although the effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) on growth in HIV-infected children is well known, the influence of prior nutritional and immunologic status on the response to HAART is not well documented. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of HAART on nutritional and immunological status in HIV-infected children in the low-income country of Ethiopia.


A multicenter, retrospective cohort study was conducted on HIV-infected children receiving antiretroviral therapy at the pediatric units of public hospitals in Addis Ababa (Black Lion, Zewditu, Yekatit 12 and ALERT hospitals), Ethiopia. Nutritional status was defined as stunting (height-for-age Z score [HAZ] <-2), wasting (weight-for-height Z score [WHZ] <-2), and underweight (weight-for-age Z score [WAZ] <-2). Multivariable logistic regression was used to analyze factors associated with treatment success and to establish whether growth (baseline nutritional status) in children predicts immunologic outcomes. In all, 556 HIV-infected children receiving HAART from January 2008 to December 2009 were included in this study.


Over the 24-mo follow-up period, the study showed that the immunologic recovery of stunted and underweight children, regardless of their baseline nutritional status, responded equally to treatment. However, wasted children showed less immunologic recovery at the different follow-up visits. Predictors of positive shift in WHZ after 24 mo of follow-up were advanced disease stage (World Health Organization clinical stages 3 and 4) with odds ratio (OR), 0.25 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.34-0.99; P = 0.045) and baseline severe underweight OR, 0.19 (95% CI, 0.09-0.56; P = 0.003). The independent predictors of positive shift of growth shift in WAZ over 24 mo were lower baseline age (<36 mo) with OR, 0.21 (95% CI, 0.04-0.90; P = 0.036) and baseline moderate underweight itself with OR, 0.11 (95% CI, 0.05-0.25; P = 0.0001) were predictors of positive shift (shift to normal).


Despite the apparent growth response in HIV-infected children after initiation of HAART, moderate and severe underweight are both independent predictors of a positive shift. The latter suggests that children on HAART require nutritional supplementation, especially during the early initiation of HAART.


Children; Ethiopia; HIV/AIDS; Immunologic; Nutritional

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