High rates of behavioral problems in perinatally HIV-infected children are not linked to HIV disease

Claude A. Mellins, Renee Smith, Peter O'Driscoll, Lawrence S. Magder, Pim Brouwers, Cynthia Chase, Ileana Blasini, Joan Hittleman, Antolin Llorente, Elaine Matzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Objective. Descriptive studies and clinical reports have suggested that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive children are at risk for behavioral problems. Inadequate control groups and sample sizes have limited the ability of investigators to consider multiple influences that place HIV-positive children at risk for poor behavioral outcomes. We examined the unique and combined influences of HIV, prenatal drug exposure, and environmental factors on behavior in children who were perinatally exposed to HIV. Methods. Participants included 307 children who were born to HIV-positive mothers (96 HIV infected and 211 seroreverters) and enrolled in a natural history, longitudinal study of women to infant HIV transmission. Caregivers completed parent behavioral rating scales, beginning when the children were 3 years old. Data were also collected on prenatal drug exposure; child age, gender, and ethnicity; caregiver relationship to child; and birth complications. Results. Multivariate analyses comparing the HIV-infected children with perinatally exposed but uninfected children from similar backgrounds failed to find an association between either HIV status or prenatal drug exposure and poor behavioral outcomes. The strongest correlates of increased behavioral symptoms were demographic characteristics. Conclusions. This study suggests that although a high prevalence of behavioral problems does exist among HIV-infected children, neither HIV infection nor prenatal drug exposure is the underlying cause. Rather, other biological and environmental factors are likely contributors toward poor behavioral outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-393
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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