HIV positive children at risk of diabetes or stunting

HIV contributes to an increased prevalence and severity of under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiency in children, according to the South African Health Review (SAHR).


Released this week, the SAHR authors cautioned that HIV-infected children on antiretrovirals, particularly those on protease inhibitors, are later at risk of also acquiring diabetes, dislipidaemia (fat in the blood stream) and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).


On the flipside HIV infection slows growth from as early as three months and may lead to irreversible stunting, underweight and wasting, unless antiretroviral therapy is given.


Researchers Michael Hendricks, Lesley Bourne and Brian Eley pointed out that under-nutrition was a major problem in HIV-infected children in South Africa.


‘€œMore than 50% of children with HIV infection became stunted or underweight and at least one in five developed wasting,’€ they say.


A recent study at Red Cross Children’€™s Hospital found that 26 of 390 HIV-infected children had severe wasting.   The severity of under-nutrition in HIV-infected children is associated with an increased risk of dying.


Hendricks and his co-authors said that the wasting syndrome characterized by persistent weight loss with chronic diarrhoea or protracted fever was a cause of high morbidity and mortality.


There are presently about 300 000 children under the age of 15 in South Africa who are HIV infected. At least half are stunted or underweight, while between 10 and 15 percent have severe under-nutrition.


Over 70 percent had marginal Vitamin A status, a factor that contributes to increased morbidity and mortality in HIV infected children.


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