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Psychiatric Disorders in Youth With Perinatally Acquired Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection

Mellins, Claude Ann PhD*; Brackis-Cott, Elizabeth PhD*; Dolezal, Curtis PhD*; Abrams, Elaine J. MD

The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: May 2006 - Volume 25 - Issue 5 - p 432-437
doi: 10.1097/01.inf.0000217372.10385.2a
Original Studies

Background: Clinical reports from the United States indicate substantive mental health problems in perinatally human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected youth that pose substantial barriers to optimizing their health. This pilot study explores rates and types of psychiatric and substance use disorders, as well as emotional and behavioral functioning in perinatally HIV-infected children and adolescents.

Methods: Forty-seven perinatally-infected youths (9–16 years of age) and their primary caregivers recruited from a pediatric HIV clinic were interviewed using standardized assessments of youth psychiatric disorders and emotional and behavioral functioning, as well as measures of health and caregiver mental health.

Results: According to either the caregiver or child report, 55% of youths met criteria for a psychiatric disorder. The most prevalent diagnoses were anxiety disorders (40%), attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (21%), conduct disorders (13%), and oppositional defiant disorders (11%). However, the majority of caregivers and children scored in the normative range on the symptom questionnaires on emotional and behavioral functioning. None of the demographic or child health variables or measures of caregiver mental health was significantly associated with presence of a child psychiatric disorder. There was an association between caregiver mental health and child emotional and behavioral functioning.

Conclusions: Standardized assessments of mental health identified very high rates of psychiatric disorders, primarily in the anxiety and behavioral domains, in this sample of youth with perinatal HIV infection. Mental health interventions should be integrated into medical care to help members of this highly vulnerable population optimize their health and well-being.

From the *HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Columbia University; †Department of Pediatrics, Harlem Hospital Center and College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Accepted for publication January 20, 2006.

This research was supported by a supplement from the Office of AIDS research to a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01-MH63636; Principal Investigator, Claude Ann Mellins, Ph.D.) and a center grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University (P50 MH43520; Center Principal Investigator, Anke A. Ehrhardt, Ph.D.).

Address for correspondence: Claude Ann Mellins, Ph.D., HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, Box 15, 1051 Riverside Drive, NY NY 10032. Fax 212-543-6003; E-mail

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.