HIV infection predominantly affecting children in Sindh, Pakistan, 2019: A cross-sectional study of an outbreak
Paediatrics and Child Health; Women and Child Health; Medicine; Community Health Sciences; Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Background: In April 2019, an HIV screening camp for all ages was established in response to a report of an unusually large number of paediatric HIV diagnoses in Larkana, Pakistan. We aimed to understand the clinical profile of the children who registered for HIV care.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we review the outbreak response from the government, academia, and UN agencies in Larkana, Sindh, Pakistan. We report age-stratified and sex-stratified HIV prevalence estimated among individuals screened. For children who registered for HIV care, clinical history of previous injections and blood transfusions, HIV disease stage, hepatitis B and hepatitis C status, and CD4 count was abstracted from clinical records from Sindh AIDS Control Program HIV Clinic (Shaikh Zayed Childrens Hospital, Larkana, Pakistan) and analysed using percentages, χ2 tests, and weight-for-age Z scores. We also analysed data for parents who were tested for HIV.
Findings: Between April 24, and July 15, 2019, 31 239 individuals underwent HIV testing, of whom 930 (3%) tested positive for HIV. Of these, 763 (82%) were younger than 16 years and 604 (79%) of these were aged 5 years and below. Estimated HIV prevalence was 3% overall; 7% (283 of 3803) in children aged 0-2 years, 6% (321 of 5412) in children aged 3-5 years, and 1% (148 of 11 251) in adults aged 16-49 years. Of the 591 children who registered for HIV care, 478 (81%) were 5 years or younger, 379 (64%) were boys, and 315 (53%) of 590 had a weight-for-age Z score of -3·2. Prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen was 8% (48 of 574) and hepatitis C antibody positivity was 3% (15 of 574). Of children whose mothers tested for HIV, only 39 (11%) of 371 had HIV-positive mothers. Most children (404 [89%] of 453) reported multiple previous injections and 40 (9%) of 453 reported blood transfusions.
Interpretation: This HIV outbreak is unprecedented among children in Pakistan: a 54% increase in paediatric HIV diagnoses over the past 13 years. The outbreak was heavily skewed towards young children younger than 5 years, with a predominance of boys. Epidemiological and molecular studies are needed to understand the full extent of the outbreak and its drivers to guide HIV control strategies.
Lancet Infectious Diseases
Abidi, S. H.,
Memon, S. A.,
Shaikh, S. A.,
Ferrand, R. A.
(2020). HIV infection predominantly affecting children in Sindh, Pakistan, 2019: A cross-sectional study of an outbreak. Lancet Infectious Diseases, 20(3), 362-370.
Available at: https://ecommons.aku.edu/pakistan_fhs_mc_women_childhealth_paediatr/830