Background. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) slows the progression of HIV disease and lowers mortality and morbidity in adults. The impact on the disease course in children has not been still completely elucidated. Furthermore the effect of HAART on organ-specific complications of HIV is unknown.
Objectives. To assess the effect of HAART on the progression of HIV infection, mortality, organ-specific complications, number of infections and hospitalizations in HIV-1-infected children.
Patients and methods. Records of HIV-1-infected children were reviewed in a large referral pediatric hospital. Patients were divided into three groups: children who did not receive antiretroviral therapy (Group 1); children who received mono- or bitherapy (Group 2); and patients who received HAART (Group 3). Endpoints analyzed were progression to AIDS and mortality among AIDS patients and overall.
Results. One hundred seven children have been evaluated. Actuarial survival at 5 years of age was 33% in Groups 1 and 2 compared with 100% in Group 3 (P < 0.01). At 5 years of age, the proportion of children progressing to AIDS was 76% in Groups 1 and 2, compared with 26% in Group 3 (P < 0.01). At 5 years of follow-up, there were 45 cases of organ-specific complications in patients without HAART. No children without organ-specific complications when HAART was started have developed them after 5 years (P < 0.01). In patients without HAART there were 9 cases of lymphoid interstitial pneumonia, and there was none in Group 3 (P < 0.01). The incidence rates of infections and hospitalizations were 2.83 and 0.52 per patient-year, respectively, in children who did not receive HAART and 0.75 and 0.17 when they were managed with HAART (relative risk, 0.26 and 0.32).
Conclusions. HAART is associated with a marked decline in the progression to AIDS, improved survival in HIV-1-infected children, reduced incidence of infections and hospitalizations and decreased incidence of some organ-specific complications of HIV.