Objective: In Subâ€‘Saharan Africa, millions of children are suffering from HIV and coexisting child undernutrition. Despite efforts to curb the spread of HIV through the availability of treatment and various nutritional programmes, it has been argued that undernutrition remains highly prevalent in rural areas. The objective of this study was to describe the prevalence and psychosocial factors influencing the nutritional status in the sample of ruralâ€‘based HIVâ€‘infected children on antiretroviral therapy.
Materials and Methods: Anthropometric and home environment data were collected from 152 perinatally HIVâ€‘infected children on antiretroviral therapy who lived with their primary caregivers in a rural Eastern Cape community.
Results: More than half of the sample of children had inadequate nutritional status. The prevalence of stunting particularly was high (36.2%), while 12% were underweight and only 2.7% presented with wasting. Coexisting poor quality homeâ€‘environment (P < 0.01) added to this burden. Younger age children who lived with a younger biological caregiver were found to present more with stunting than older age children (ê™2 [n = 152] = 14.79, P = 0.005), but no significant differences were observed for underweight or wasting.
Conclusion: It is important in a context such as South Africa, with the double burden of HIV infection and poverty, that all efforts be directed at alleviating undernutrition. Early pediatric HIV management should not only focus on the provision of treatment but should also prioritize the quality of care of HIVâ€‘positive children in the home to improve on their nutritional health.
Key words: HIV/AIDS, nutritional status, pediatrics, resourceâ€‘poor setting, stunting, underweight, wasting.
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