The Cognitive Functioning of Children Infected with HIV/AIDS on Antiretroviral Treatment Compared to a Control Group in South Africa

February 2009

With an estimated 5.7 million people living with HIV, South Africa is the country with the largest number of infections in the world. Patients with HIV/AIDS can be treated with Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). The introduction of HAART has led to a reduction in mortality. This study is done on behalf of the AIDS office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference that provides ARV (antiretroviral) medication necessary for HAART. The purpose of current study is to examine the differences in cognitive functioning between children who are infected with HIV/AIDS (HIV+) compared to children who are not infected with HIV/AIDS (HIV-). Previous studies indicate a significant lower cognitive functioning of HIV/AIDS-infected children. There were 167 children (age 6-16) involved in this study, from which 81 children in the HIV+ group, enrolled in the HAART program and 86 children in the HIV- group. Also, within the HIV+ group, the effect of different factors such as stage of disease, CD4 percentages, kind of medication and child-to-adult ratio on cognitive functioning is examined. The Raven CPM was used to assess cognitive functioning. The HIV+ group was expected to have lower scores on the Raven CPM than the HIV- group. The results confirmed this expectation: a significant difference was found between the two groups on cognitive functioning. Even after controlling for the effect of age, there was still a significant difference. Concluding, these findings document a significant lower cognitive functioning of HIV/AIDS-infected children when compared to an ethnically similar group of uninfected children.

Download Here