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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection in Infants and Children

by Geoffrey A. Weinberg, MD

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is caused by the retrovirus HIV-1 (and less commonly by the related retrovirus HIV-2). Infection leads to progressive immunologic deterioration and opportunistic infections and cancers. The end stage is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Diagnosis is by viral antibodies in children > 18 mo and virologic nucleic acid amplification tests (such as PCR) in children < 18 mo. Treatment is with combinations of antiretroviral drugs.

The general natural history and pathophysiology of pediatric HIV infection is similar to that in adults; however, the method of infection, clinical presentations, and treatments often differ. HIV-infected children also have unique social integration issues (see Integration of HIV-Infected Children).

Epidemiology

In the US, HIV probably occurred in children almost as early as in adults but was not clinically recognized for several years. Thus far, about 10,000 cases have been reported in children and young adolescents, representing only 1% of total cases. In 2011, an estimated 192 new cases were diagnosed in children < 13 yr.

More than 90% of HIV-infected US children acquired the infection from their mother, either before or around the time of birth (vertical transmission). Most of the remainder (including children with hemophilia or other coagulation disorders) received contaminated blood or blood products. A few cases are the result of sexual abuse. Vertical transmission has declined significantly in the US from about 25% in 1991 (resulting in > 1500 infected children annually) to 1% in 2009 (resulting in only about 150 infected children annually). Vertical transmission has been reduced by using comprehensive serologic screening and treating of infected pregnant women during both pregnancy and delivery.

However, the total number of HIV-infected US adolescents continues to increase despite the marked success in decreasing perinatal HIV infection. This paradoxical increase is a result of both greater survival among perinatally infected children and new cases of HIV infection acquired via sexual transmission among other adolescents (in particular, among young men who have sex with men). Reducing transmission of HIV among young men who have sex with men continues to be an important focus of domestic HIV control efforts as is continuing the reduction of vertical transmission.

Worldwide, about 3 million children have HIV infection (10% of the total caseload worldwide). Each year, about 330,000 more children are infected (13% of all new infections), and about 230,000 children die. Although these numbers represent a daunting amount of illness, new programs created to deliver antiretroviral therapy (ART) to pregnant women and children have reduced the annual number of new childhood infections and childhood deaths by 10 to 15% in the past few years. However, infected children still do not receive ART nearly as often as adults; only about 28% of children with indications for therapy receive ART vs 57% of adults. Interrupting vertical transmission and providing treatment to HIV-infected children remain the two most important goals of global pediatric HIV medicine.

Transmission

The infection risk for an infant born to an HIV-positive mother who did not receive ART during pregnancy is estimated at 25% (range 13 to 39%). Risk factors for vertical transmission include

  • Seroconversion during pregnancy or breastfeeding (major risk)

  • High plasma viral RNA concentrations (major risk)

  • Advanced disease

  • Low peripheral CD4+ T-cell counts

  • Prolonged rupture of membranes

In vaginal deliveries, a 1st-born twin is at greater risk than a 2nd-born twin, although this relationship may not hold true in developing countries.

Cesarean delivery before onset of active labor reduces the risk of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). However, it is clear that MTCT is reduced most significantly by giving combination ART, usually including zidovudine (ZDV), to the mother and neonate (see Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection in Infants and Children : Prevention). ZDV monotherapy reduces MTCT from 25% to about 8%, and current combination ART reduces it to 1%.

HIV has been detected in both the cellular and cell-free fractions of human breast milk. The incidence of transmission by breastfeeding is about 6/100 breastfed children/yr. Estimates of the overall risk of transmission through breastfeeding are 12 to 14%, reflecting varying durations of breastfeeding. Transmission by breastfeeding is greatest in mothers with high plasma viral RNA concentrations (eg, women who become infected during pregnancy or during the period of breastfeeding).

Classification

HIV infection causes a broad spectrum of disease, of which AIDS is the most severe. Classification schemes established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define the progression of clinical and immunologic decline.

Clinical categories in children < 13 yr ( Clinical Categories for Children Aged 13 Yr With HIV Infection) are defined by presence or absence of certain common opportunistic infections or cancers. These categories are

  • N = Not symptomatic

  • A = Mildly symptomatic

  • B = Moderately symptomatic

  • C = Severely symptomatic

Immunologic categories in children < 13 yr ( Immunologic Categories for Children 13 Yr With HIV Infection Based on Age-Specific CD4+ T-Cell Counts and Percentages of Total Lymphocyte Counts) reflect the degree of immune suppression based on the CD4+ T-cell count (absolute count and as percentage of total lymphocyte count):

  • 1 = No evidence of immune suppression

  • 2 = Moderate suppression

  • 3 = Severe suppression

Thus, a child classified in stage B3 would have moderately advanced clinical symptoms and severe immunocompromise. Clinical and immunologic categories form a unidirectional hierarchy; once classified at a certain level, children cannot be reclassified at a less severe level, regardless of clinical or immunologic improvement.

These clinical and immunologic categories are becoming less relevant in the era of combination ART, which, when taken as prescribed, almost invariably leads to a decrease in symptoms and an increase in CD4+ T-cell counts. The categories are most useful for clinical research and for describing the severity of illness at the time of diagnosis. The classification system for adolescents > 13 yr and adults has been revised and now simply includes CD4+ T-cell counts as the major component of staging, unless AIDS-defining conditions (eg, opportunistic infections) are present ( Clinical Categories for Children Aged 13 Yr With HIV Infection).

Clinical Categories for Children Aged 13 Yr With HIV Infection

Category N: Not symptomatic

Children who have no symptoms or signs considered to result from HIV infection or who have only 1 of the conditions listed in category A

Category A: Mildly symptomatic

Children with ≥ 2 of the conditions listed below but none of the conditions listed in category B or C:

Dermatitis

Hepatomegaly

Lymphadenopathy ( 0.5 cm at > 2 sites; bilateral = 1 site)

Parotitis

Recurrent or persistent upper respiratory tract infection, sinusitis, or otitis media

Splenomegaly

Category B: Moderately symptomatic

Children with symptomatic conditions attributed to HIV infection beyond those listed in category A but not among those listed in category C; conditions in category B include but are not limited to the following:

Anemia (Hb < 8 g/dL), neutropenia (<1,000/μL), or thrombocytopenia (< 100,000/μL) persisting 30 days

Bacterial meningitis, pneumonia, or sepsis (single episode)

Candidiasis, oropharyngeal (thrush), persisting (> 2 mo) in children > 6 mo of age

Cardiomyopathy

Cytomegalovirus infection with onset before 1 mo of age

Diarrhea, recurrent or chronic

Hepatitis

Herpes zoster (shingles) involving 2 distinct episodes or > 1 dermatome

HSV stomatitis, recurrent (> 2 episodes within 1 yr)

HSV bronchitis, pneumonitis, or esophagitis with onset before 1 mo of age

Leiomyosarcoma

Lymphoid interstitial pneumonitis or pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia complex

Nephropathy

Nocardiosis

Persistent fever (lasting > 1 mo)

Toxoplasmosis with onset before 1 mo of age

Varicella, disseminated (complicated chickenpox)

Category C: Severely symptomatic

Children with ≥ 1 of the following conditions:

Serious bacterial infections, multiple or recurrent (ie, any combination of 2 culture-confirmed infections within a 2-yr period), of the following types: septicemia, pneumonia, meningitis, bone or joint infection, or abscess of an internal organ or body cavity (excluding otitis media, superficial skin or mucosal abscesses, and indwelling catheter-related infections)

Candidiasis, esophageal or pulmonary (bronchi, trachea, lungs)

Coccidioidomycosis, disseminated (at a site other than or in addition to the lungs or cervical or hilar lymph nodes)

Cryptococcosis, extrapulmonary

Cryptosporidiosis or isosporiasis with diarrhea persisting > 1 mo

Cytomegalovirus disease with onset of symptoms at age > 1 mo (at a site other than the liver, spleen, or lymph nodes)

Encephalopathy (1 of the following progressive findings present for 2 mo in the absence of a concurrent illness other than HIV infection that could explain the findings):

  • Failure to attain or loss of developmental milestones or loss of intellectual ability, verified by standard developmental scale or neuropsychologic tests

  • Impaired brain growth or acquired microcephaly shown by head circumference measurements or presence of brain atrophy on CT or MRI (serial imaging is required for children < 2 yr)

  • Acquired symmetric motor deficit manifested by 2 of the following: paresis, pathologic reflexes, ataxia, or gait disturbance

Histoplasmosis, disseminated (at a site other than or in addition to the lungs or cervical or hilar lymph nodes)

HSV infection causing a mucocutaneous ulcer persisting for >1 mo or HSV bronchitis, pneumonitis, or esophagitis for any duration affecting a child > 1 mo of age

Kaposi sarcoma

Lymphoma, primary, in the brain

Lymphoma: Small, noncleaved cell lymphoma (Burkitt), or immunoblastic or large-cell lymphoma of B-cell or unknown immunologic phenotype

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, disseminated or extrapulmonary

Mycobacterium, other species or unidentified species, disseminated (at a site other than or in addition to the lungs, skin, or cervical or hilar lymph nodes)

Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy

Salmonella (nontyphoid) septicemia, recurrent

Toxoplasmosis of the brain with onset at > 1 mo of age

Wasting syndrome in the absence of a concurrent illness (other than HIV infection) that could explain any one of the following 3 findings:

  • Persistent weight loss > 10% of baseline

  • Downward crossing of 2 of the following percentile lines on the weight-for-age chart (eg, 95th, 75th, 50th, 25th, 5th) in a child 1 yr

  • < 5th percentile on weight-for-height chart on 2 consecutive measurements 30 days apart

plus 1 of the following:

  • Chronic diarrhea (ie, 2 loose stools/day for 30 days)

  • Documented fever (for 30 days, intermittent or constant)

HSV = herpes simplex virus.

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Revised surveillance case definitions for HIV infection among adults, adolescents, and children aged <18 months and for HIV infection and AIDS among children aged 18 months to < 13 years of age—United States, 2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 57(RR-10):1–13, 2008.

Immunologic Categories for Children 13 Yr With HIV Infection Based on Age-Specific CD4+ T-Cell Counts and Percentages of Total Lymphocyte Counts

Immunologic Categories

< 12 mo

1–5 yr

6–12 yr

Cells/µL

%

Cells/µL

%

Cells/µL

%

1: No evidence of suppression

1500

25

1000

25

500

25

2: Evidence of moderate suppression

750–1499

15–24

500–999

15–24

200–499

15–24

3: Severe suppression

< 750

< 15

< 500

< 15

< 200

< 15

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Revised surveillance case definitions for HIV infection among adults, adolescents, and children aged <18 months and for HIV infection and AIDS among children aged 18 months to < 13 years of age—United States, 2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 57(RR-10):1–13, 2008.

Symptoms and Signs

Natural history in untreated children

Infants infected perinatally usually are asymptomatic during the first few months of life, even if no combination ART is begun. Although the median age at symptom onset is about 3 yr, some children remain asymptomatic for > 5 yr and, with appropriate ART, are expected to survive to adulthood. In the pre-ART era, about 10 to 15% of children had rapid disease progression, with symptoms occurring in the first year of life and death occurring by 18 to 36 mo; these children were thought to have acquired HIV infection earlier in utero. However, most children probably acquire infection at or near birth and have slower disease progression (surviving beyond 5 yr even before ART was used routinely).

The most common manifestations of HIV infection in children not receiving ART include generalized lymphadenopathy, hepatomegaly, splenomegaly, failure to thrive, oral candidiasis, CNS disease (including developmental delay, which can be progressive), lymphoid interstitial pneumonitis, recurrent bacteremia, opportunistic infections, recurrent diarrhea, parotitis, cardiomyopathy, hepatitis, nephropathy, and cancers.

Complications

When complications occur, they typically involve opportunistic infections (and rarely cancer). Combination ART has made such infections uncommon, and they now occur mainly in undiagnosed children who have not yet received ART or in children who are not adherent to ART.

When opportunistic infections occur, Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia is the most common and serious and has high mortality. Pneumocystis pneumonia can occur as early as age 4 to 6 wk but occurs mostly in infants aged 3 to 6 mo who acquired infection before or at birth. Infants and older children with Pneumocystis pneumonia characteristically develop a subacute, diffuse pneumonitis with dyspnea at rest, tachypnea, O 2 desaturation, nonproductive cough, and fever (in contrast to non–HIV-infected immunocompromised children and adults, in whom onset is often more acute and fulminant).

Other opportunistic infections in immunosuppressed children include Candida esophagitis, disseminated cytomegalovirus infection, chronic or disseminated herpes simplex and varicella-zoster virus infections, and, less commonly, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. avium complex infections, chronic enteritis caused by Cryptosporidium or other organisms, and disseminated or CNS cryptococcal or Toxoplasma gondii infection.

Cancers in immunocompromised children with HIV infection are relatively uncommon, but leiomyosarcomas and certain lymphomas, including CNS lymphomas and non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphomas (Burkitt type), occur much more often than in immunocompetent children. Kaposi sarcoma is very rare in HIV-infected children.

Children receiving combination antiretroviral therapy

Combination ART has significantly changed the clinical manifestations of pediatric HIV infection. Although bacterial pneumonia and other bacterial infections (eg, bacteremia, recurrent otitis media) still occur more often in HIV-infected children, opportunistic infections and growth failure are much less frequent than in the pre-ART era. New problems, such as alterations in serum lipids, hyperglycemia, fat maldistribution (lipodystrophy and lipoatrophy), nephropathy, and osteonecrosis, are reported; however, the incidence is lower in children than in HIV-infected adults.

Although combination ART clearly improves neurodevelopmental outcome, there seems to be an increased rate of behavioral, developmental, and cognitive problems in treated HIV-infected children. It is unclear whether these problems are caused by HIV infection itself, therapeutic drugs, or other biopsychosocial factors among HIV-infected children. It is unknown whether any additional effects of HIV infection or ART during critical periods of growth and development will manifest later in life because the first wave of perinatally infected children is just now reaching adulthood. To detect such adverse effects, providers will need to monitor HIV-infected children over time.

Diagnosis

  • Serum antibody tests

  • Virologic nucleic acid tests (NATs; includes HIV DNA PCR or HIV RNA assays)

HIV-specific tests

In children > 18 mo, the diagnosis is made using serum antibody tests (eg, enzyme immunoassay [EIA] and confirmatory Western blot) as in adults. Recently, a new diagnostic algorithm of a 4th-generation HIV-1/2 antigen/antibody combination immunoassay followed by a 2nd-generation HIV-1/2 antibody differentiation assay and, if required, an HIV-1 qualitative RNA assay, has been used in adults and will likely be followed in children. Only very rarely does an older HIV-infected child lack HIV antibody because of significant hypogammaglobulinemia.

Children < 18 mo retain maternal antibody, causing false-positive results on EIA, so diagnosis is made by HIV virologic assays such as qualitative RNA assays (eg, transcription-mediated amplification of RNA) or DNA PCR assays (known collectively as NATs), which can diagnose about 30% of cases at birth and nearly 100% by 4 to 6 mo of age. HIV viral culture has acceptable sensitivity and specificity but is technically more demanding and hazardous and has been replaced by NATs in most laboratories.

Another type of NAT, the quantitative HIV RNA assay (ie, the viral load assay used for monitoring efficacy of treatment) is becoming more widely used for diagnostic testing of infants. Quantitative RNA assays are as sensitive as DNA PCR in infants not given ART, are less expensive, and are more widely available than are the other NATs. However, care must be taken when using RNA assays for infant diagnosis because test specificity is uncertain at very low RNA concentrations (< 5,000 copies/mL) and sensitivity is unknown in infants of mothers with complete treatment-mediated viral suppression at the time of delivery.

The modified p24 antigen assay is less sensitive than either HIV DNA or RNA NATs and should no longer be used for diagnostic testing of infants in the US.

A virologic test (a NAT) should be done initially within the first 2 wk of life, at about 1 mo of age, and between 4 mo and 6 mo. A positive test should be confirmed immediately by using the same or another virologic test. If the serial HIV virologic tests are negative at ≥ 2 wk and ≥ 4 wk, the infant is considered uninfected with > 95% accuracy (in the absence of any AIDS-defining illness). If HIV virologic tests are also negative at ≥ 4 wk and ≥ 4 mo, the infant is considered uninfected with about 100% accuracy (in the absence of any AIDS-defining illness). Nevertheless, many experts continue to recommend follow-up antibody tests (1 EIA at > 18 mo or, alternatively, 2 EIAs done between 6 mo and 18 mo) to definitively exclude HIV infection and confirm seroreversion (loss of passively acquired HIV antibodies). If an infant < 18 mo with a positive antibody test but negative virologic tests develops an AIDS-defining illness (category C— Clinical Categories for Children Aged 13 Yr With HIV Infection), HIV infection is diagnosed.

Rapid tests for HIV antibody are derivatives of EIAs that provide results within minutes to hours. They can be done as point-of-care tests on oral secretions, whole blood, or serum. In the US, these tests are perhaps most useful in labor and delivery suites to test women of unknown HIV serostatus, thus allowing counseling, commencement of ART to prevent MTCT, and testing of the infant to be arranged during the birth visit. Similar advantages accrue in other episodic care settings (eg, emergency departments, adolescent medicine clinics, sexually transmitted disease clinics) and in the developing world. Rapid assays typically require confirmatory tests, such as a second EIA, HIV-1/2 antibody differentiation assay, or Western blot. These confirmatory tests are especially important because in areas where the expected HIV prevalence is low, even a specific rapid assay yields mostly false positives (low positive predictive value by Bayes theorem—see Testing : Bayes’ Theorem). However, if the expected probability of HIV (or seroprevalence) is high, the positive predictive value increases.

Before HIV testing of a child is done, the mother or primary caregiver (and the child, if old enough) should be counseled about the possible psychosocial risks and benefits of testing. Written or oral consent should be obtained and recorded in the patient’s chart, consistent with state, local, and hospital laws and regulations. Counseling and consent requirements should not deter testing if it is medically indicated; refusal of a patient or guardian to give consent does not relieve physicians of their professional and legal responsibilities, and sometimes authorization for testing must be obtained by other means (eg, court order). Test results should be discussed in person with the family, the primary caregiver, and, if old enough, the child. If the child is HIV-positive, appropriate counseling and subsequent follow-up care must be provided. In all cases, maintaining confidentiality is essential.

Children and adolescents meeting the criteria for HIV infection or AIDS must be reported to the appropriate public health department.

Other tests

Once infection is diagnosed, other tests are done:

  • CD4+ T-cell count

  • CD8+ T-cell count

  • Plasma viral RNA concentration

Infected children require measurement of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell counts and plasma viral RNA concentration (viral load) to help determine their degree of illness, prognosis, and the effects of therapy. CD4+ counts may be normal (eg, above the age-specific cutoffs of category 1 in Immunologic Categories for Children 13 Yr With HIV Infection Based on Age-Specific CD4+ T-Cell Counts and Percentages of Total Lymphocyte Counts) initially but fall eventually. CD8+ counts usually increase initially and do not fall until late in the infection. These changes in cell populations result in a decrease in the CD4+:CD8+ cell ratio, a characteristic of HIV infection (although sometimes occurring in other infections). Plasma viral RNA concentrations in untreated children < 12 mo are typically very high (mean of about 200,000 RNA copies/mL). By 24 mo, viral concentrations in untreated children decrease (to a mean of about 40,000 RNA copies/mL). Although the wide range of HIV RNA concentrations in children make the data less predictive of morbidity and mortality than in adults, determining plasma viral concentrations in conjunction with CD4+ counts still yields more accurate prognostic information than does determining either marker alone. Less expensive alternative surrogate markers such as total lymphocyte counts and serum albumin levels may also predict AIDS mortality in children, which may be useful in developing nations.

Although not routinely measured, serum immunoglobulin concentrations, particularly IgG and IgA, often are markedly elevated, but occasionally some children develop panhypogammaglobulinemia. Patients may be anergic to skin test antigens.

Prognosis

In the pre-ART era, 10 to 15% of children from industrialized countries and perhaps 50 to 80% of children from developing countries died before age 4 yr; however, with appropriate combination ART regimens, most perinatally infected children survive well beyond 5 yr. The majority of vertically infected children born during the past decade in the US is surviving into young adulthood; increasing numbers of these young adults have given birth to or fathered their own children.

Nevertheless, if opportunistic infections occur, particularly Pneumocystis pneumonia, progressive neurologic disease, or severe wasting, the prognosis is poor unless virologic and immunologic control is regained with combination ART. Mortality due to Pneumocystis pneumonia ranges from 5 to 40% if treated and is almost 100% if untreated. Prognosis is also poor for children in whom virus is detected early (ie, by 7 days of life) or who develop symptoms in the first year of life.

There has been only one well-documented case of an adult in whom replication-competent HIV was eradicated (ie, the person has been "cured" for 5 yr). This person required a hematopoietic stem cell transplant for leukemia. The donor cells were homozygous for the CCR5-delta 32 mutation, which made the engrafted lymphocytes resistant to infection with CCR5-tropic HIV; subsequently, HIV has remained undetectable. It is likely that ART, bone marrow ablation, and graft-vs-host disease contributed to this person's cure. One well-documented case of an infant with apparent eradication of replication-competent HIV also has been reported. The infant was born to an HIV-infected mother who had not received prenatal care or prenatal (or intrapartum) ART. Beginning on the second day of life, the infant was given combination ART at high doses not yet known to be safe and effective for use in the first 2 wk of life. The ART was given for about 15 mo, after which time it was inadvertently stopped. Nevertheless, at 24 mo of age the infant had no detectable replicating virus RNA (a "functional cure") but did have detectable proviral DNA. Whether this infant will have long-term freedom from HIV replication and whether this experience can be repeated safely are not yet known. What is known, however, is that HIV infection is a treatable infection that is already compatible with long-term survival if effective ART is given. Future research will undoubtedly uncover ways to improve ART tolerance and efficacy and perhaps help achieve the goal of curative therapy.

Treatment

  • Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs: Combination ART most commonly includes 2 nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) plus either a protease inhibitor (PI) or a nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI); sometimes an integrase inhibitor given with 2 NRTIs

  • Supportive care

Because of the success of combination ART, much of the current focus is on the management of HIV infection as a chronic disease, addressing both medical and social issues. Important long-term medical issues include the need to manage HIV-related and drug-related metabolic complications and to account for age-related changes in drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Social issues include the need to cope with peer pressure from noninfected adolescents, ensure school success and appropriate career choice, and educate children about transmission risk. Adolescents often have difficulty seeking and following health care advice and need particular help with treatment adherence. Children and adolescents should be managed in collaboration with specialists who have experience in the management of pediatric HIV infection.

ARV drugs

There are > 2 dozen ARV drugs ( Dosage and Administration of Antiretroviral Drugs for Children*), including multidrug combination products, available in the US, each of which may have adverse effects and drug interactions with other ARV drugs or commonly used antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and sedatives. New ARV drugs, immunomodulators, and vaccines are under evaluation. For current information on dosing, adverse effects, and drug interactions, see guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in pediatric HIV infection and guidelines for adults and adolescents available at www.aidsinfo.nih.gov . Useful treatment information is also available at www.hivguidelines.org and www.unaids.org/en/ . Consultation regarding ART, especially for issues surrounding HIV postexposure prophylaxis and prevention of HIV mother to child transmission, are also available through the National HIV/AIDS Clinicians' Consultation Center located at the University of California San Francisco, available at www.nccc.ucsf.edu.

Standard treatment is with combination ART to maximize viral suppression and minimize selection of drug-resistant strains. Most commonly, ART consists of a backbone of 2 NRTIs (zidovudine plus lamivudine or emtricitabine, abacavir plus lamivudine or emtricitabine, or, for postpubertal adolescents, tenofovir plus emtricitabine or lamivudine) given in combination with either a ritonavir-boosted PI (lopinavir/ritonavir or ritonavir-boosted atazanavir) or an NNRTI (efavirenz or, in some situations, nevirapine). Other combinations sometimes are used (such as 2 NRTIs with raltegravir), but fewer data are available to support their use as first-line regimens. Because expert opinions on therapeutic strategies change rapidly, consultation with specialists is strongly advised. Tablets containing fixed-dose combinations of ≥ 3 drugs are now widely used in older children and adolescents to simplify regimens and improve adherence; for young children, such combinations are unavailable in the US or difficult to use.

Dosage and Administration of Antiretroviral Drugs for Children*

Drug

Preparations

Recommended Dosage (Oral)

Selected Adverse Effects and Comments

Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)

Abacavir (ABC)

Syrup: 20 mg/mL

Tablet: 300 mg

3 mo–15yr: 8 mg/kg q 12 h (up to a maximum of 300 mg q 12 h)

16 yr: 300 mg q 12 h or 600 mg q 24 h

ABC may cause the following:

  • Possibly fatal hypersensitivity reaction—symptoms may include rash, nausea and vomiting, sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath

The incidence of hypersensitivity reaction is about 5%. The reaction mostly occurs during the first 6 wk of use and primarily among patients with the HLA-B*5701 genotype (who should not receive ABC).

There is risk of hypotension or death with rechallenge after a hypersensitivity reaction.

Before prescribing ABC, clinicians should test for the HLA-B*5701 allele.

ABC may be given without regard to food.

Didanosine (ddI)

Pediatric powder for oral solution: When reconstituted, 10 mg/mL

Enteric-coated extended-release capsules, 200, 250, and 400 mg

14 days–2 mo: 50 mg/m 2 q 12 h

3 mo–8 mo: 100 mg/m 2 q 12 h

> 8 mo–6 yr: 120 mg/m 2 q 12 h

6 yr, weight-based dosing all with extended-release capsules:

20–24 kg: 200 mg q 24 h

25–59 kg: 250 mg q 24 h

60 kg: 400 mg q 24 h

ddl may cause the following:

  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Lactic acidosis, hepatomegaly with steatosis

  • Pancreatitis

  • Retinitis

Concurrent use with tenofovir should be avoided.

The oral solution should be given on an empty stomach; this may not be necessary for the capsules.

Emtricitabine (FTC)

Oral solution: 10 mg/mL

Capsules: 200 mg

0–2 mo: 3 mg/kg q 24 h

3 mo–18 yr: 6 mg/kg q 24 h (maximum oral solution 240 mg q 24 h; maximum capsule 200 mg q 24 h)

FTC is well-tolerated; however, it may rarely cause the following:

  • Neutropenia, hyperpigmentation, lactic acidosis

  • Severe exacerbation of hepatitis in patients coinfected with hepatitis B infection if FTC suddenly discontinued

FTC may be given without regard to food.

Lamivudine (3TC)

Oral solution: 10 mg/mL

Tablets: 100, 150, and 300 mg

0–1 mo: 2 mg/kg q 12 h

≥ 1 mo–15 yr: 4 mg/kg q 12 h (up to 150 mg q 12 h)

≥ 16 yr: 150 mg q 12 h or 300 mg q 24 h

3TC is well-tolerated; however, it may rarely cause the following:

  • Neutropenia, hyperpigmentation, lactic acidosis

  • Severe exacerbation of hepatitis in patients coinfected with hepatitis B infection if 3TC suddenly discontinued

3TC may be given without regard to food.

Stavudine (d4T)

Powder for oral solution: 1 mg/mL

Capsules: 15, 20, 30, and 40 mg

0–13 days: 0.5 mg/kg q 12 h

≥ 2 wk: 1 mg/kg q 12 h

≥ 30 kg: 30 mg q 12 h

d4T may cause the following:

  • Mitochondrial toxicity

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Lipoatrophy, hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia

  • Pancreatitis

  • Lactic acidosis, hepatomegaly with hepatic steatosis (risk increased if given with ddI)

d4T may be given without regard to food.

Tenofovir (TDF)

Oral powder: 40 mg/1 level scoop

Tablets: 150, 200, 250, and 300 mg

< 2 yr: Not recommended

2–12 yr: 8 mg/kg q 24 h up to 300 mg q 24 h as follows:

10–11 kg: 2 scoops powder q 24 h

12–13 kg: 2.5 scoops powder q 24 h

14–16 kg: 3 scoops powder q 24 h

17–18 kg: 3.5 scoops powder or 1 x 150-mg tablet q 24 h

19–21 kg: 4 scoops powder or 1 x 150-mg tablet q 24 h

22–23 kg: 4.5 scoops powder or 1 x 200-mg tablet q 24 h

24–26 kg: 5 scoops powder or 1 x 200-mg tablet q 24 h

27–28 kg: 5.5 scoops powder or 1 x 250-mg tablet q 24 h

29–31 kg: 6 scoops powder or 1 x 250-mg tablet q 24 h

32–33 kg: 6.5 scoops powder or 1 x 250-mg tablet q 24 h

34 kg: 7 scoops powder or 1 x 250-mg tablet q 24 h

≥ 35 kg: 7.5 scoops powder or 1 x 300-mg tablet q 24 h

12 yr and ≥ 35 kg: 1 x 300-mg tablet q 24 h

TDF is usually well-tolerated; however, it may cause the following:

  • Occasional asthenia, headache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

  • Renal insufficiency (proximal tubular dysfunction including Fanconi syndrome)

  • Decreased bone mineral density

  • Severe exacerbation of hepatitis in patients coinfected with hepatitis B infection if TDF is discontinued

The powder preparation is bitter and insoluble and should be given in soft food such as applesauce or yogurt rather than liquid.

TDF may be given without regard to food.

TDF powder should be measured only with the supplied 1-g scoop.

Zidovudine (ZDV)

Oral syrup: 10 mg/mL

IV solution: 10 mg/mL

Capsule: 100 mg

Tablet: 300 mg

0–6 wk: 4 mg/kg q 12 h

6 wk–17 yr: 240 mg/m 2 q 12 h or weight-based dosing:

4–8 kg: 12 mg/kg q 12 h

9–29 kg: 9 mg/kg q 12 h

30 kg: 300 mg q 12 h

18 yr: 300 mg q 12 h

ZDV may cause the following:

  • Macrocytic anemia, granulocytopenia

  • Headache, malaise, anorexia, nausea, vomiting

  • Nail pigmentation

  • Hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia

  • Lactic acidosis, hepatomegaly with hepatic steatosis

  • Myopathy

ZDV may be given without regard to food.

Nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)

Efavirenz (EFV)

Capsules: 50 and 200 mg

Tablet: 600 mg

3–17 yr, weight-based dosing:

10–14 kg: 200 mg q 24 h

15–19 kg: 250 mg q 24 h

20–24 kg: 300 mg q 24 h

25–32 kg: 350 mg q 24 h

33–39 kg: 400 mg q 24 h

≥ 40 kg: 600 mg q 24 h

18 yr: 600 mg q 24 h

EFV may cause the following:

  • Rash

  • CNS disturbances (eg, somnolence, insomnia, abnormal dreams, confusion); mostly in adults, often abate with time

  • Increased hepatic transaminase level

  • Potential teratogenicity (should be used with caution in female adolescents and adults with reproductive potential)

EFV should be given on empty stomach, preferably at bedtime.

Etravirine (ETR)

Tablets: 25, 100, and 200 mg

<6 yr: Not approved

6–18 yr, weight-based dosing:

16–19 kg: 100 mg q 12 h

20–24 kg: 125 mg q 12 h

25–29: 150 mg q 12 h

≥ 30 kg: 200 mg q 12 h

ETR may cause the following:

  • Nausea

  • Rash, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome

  • Hypersensitivity reaction, including rash, constitutional findings, hepatic failure

  • Multiple drug interactions

ETR is associated with multiple drug interactions, especially with other ARV drugs, and should not be given with RTV-boosted ATV, TPV, or FPV, or with unboosted PIs or other NNRTIs.

ETR must be given with food.

Nevirapine (NVP)

Suspension: 10 mg/mL

Tablet: 200 mg

Extended-release tablets: 100 and 400 mg

Therapy initiation: Age-appropriate dose given once/day for 14 days then increased to twice/day if tolerated (to lessen incidence of adverse reactions)

2 wk–8 yr: 200 mg/m 2 q 12 h

8 yr: 120–150 mg/m 2 q 12 h (up to 200 mg q 12 h or, if using extended-release tablets, 400 mg q 24 h)

If an older child or adolescent has been taking NVP tablets twice daily without adverse effects, the extended-release tablets may be used as follows to convert to once-daily dosing:

0.58–0.83 m 2 : 200 mg once/day (2 x 100 mg)

0.84–1.16 m 2 : 300 mg once/day (3 x 100 mg)

≥1.17 m 2 : 400 mg once/day (1 x 400 mg)

NVP may cause the following:

  • Rash, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome

  • Symptomatic hepatitis, including fatal hepatic necrosis

  • Severe systemic hypersensitivity syndrome with potential for multisystem organ involvement and shock

Rash is most common during first 6 wk of therapy; if rash occurs during 14-day regimen, the dose is not increased until rash resolves.

Hepatic toxicity is most common during first 12 wk of therapy, and frequent clinical and laboratory monitoring should be done during this time and periodically thereafter; if clinical hepatitis is suspected, hepatic transaminase levels are obtained.

If hepatitis or hypersensitivity reaction occurs, no rechallenge is done.

If NVP therapy is interrupted for > 7 days, it should be restarted with a 14-day regimen.

NVP may be given without regard to food.

Rilpivirine (RPV)

Tablet: 25 mg

< 18 yr: Not approved

≥ 18 yr: 25 mg q 24 h

RPV may cause the following:

  • Depression, mood changes, insomnia

  • Headache

  • Rash

  • Multiple drug interactions

RPV must be given with food (a normal- or high-calorie meal).

Protease inhibitors (PIs)

Atazanavir (ATV)

Capsules: 100, 150, 200, and 300 mg

Given with low-dose ritonavir (RTV) as a pharmacokinetic booster

< 6 yr: Not approved

6–17 yr, weight-based dosing:

15–19 kg: ATV 150 mg + RTV 100 mg q 24 h

20–39 kg: ATV 200 mg + RTV 100 mg q 24 h

40 kg: ATV 300 mg + RTV 100 mg q 24 h

18 yr: ATV 300 mg + RTV 100 mg q 24 h

ATV may cause the following:

  • Asymptomatic indirect hyperbilirubinemia (incidence 30%), jaundice (incidence 10%)

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, fat maldistribution

  • Prolongation of PR interval (see Arrhythmias and Conduction Disorders:Normal rhythm) on ECG

  • Nephrolithiasis (rare)

ATV should be given with food to enhance absorption.

Darunavir (DRV)

Oral suspension: 100 mg/mL

Tablets: 75, 150, 400, and 600 mg

Given with low-dose RTV as a pharmacokinetic booster

< 3 yr: Do not use

3–17 yr and ≥ 10 kg, weight-based dosing:

10 kg: DRV 200 mg + RTV 32 mg q 12 h (both as liquids)

11 kg: DRV 220 mg + RTV 32 mg q 12 h (both as liquids)

12 kg: DRV 240 mg + RTV 40 mg q 12 h (both as liquids)

13 kg: DRV 260 mg + RTV 40 mg q 12 h (both as liquids)

14 kg: DRV 280 mg + RTV 48 mg q 12 h (both as liquids)

15–29 kg: DRV 375 mg + RTV 48 mg q 12 h ( as liquids or tablets)

30–39 kg: DRV 450 mg + RTV 100 mg q 12 h (as liquids or tablets)

≥ 40 kg: DRV 600 mg + RTV 100 mg q 12 h (tablets preferred)

18 yr: DRV 600 mg + RTV 100 mg q 12 h

DRV may cause the following:

  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

  • Rash, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, fat maldistribution

Seizures and death have occurred in infant rats with an immature liver and blood-brain barrier, so DRV is not given to children < 3 yr.

DRV contains a sulfonamide moiety; however, the degree of cross-reactivity with sulfa drugs is uncertain.

A complex regimen with different tablet strengths and liquid volumes is necessary for children whose body weight is between 15 kg and 40 kg (additional patient education should be provided).

To enhance palatability, an RTV 100-mg tablet may be substituted for the RTV oral solution for children 20–40 kg, even though the RTV dose is higher.

DRV must be given with food to enhance absorption.

Fosamprenavir (FPV)

Oral suspension: 50 mg/mL

Tablet: 700 mg

Given with low-dose RTV as a pharmacokinetic booster

≥ 6 mo–17 yr, weight-based dosing up to FPV 700 mg + RTV 100 mg q 12 h as follows:

< 11 kg: FPV 45 mg/kg + RTV 7 mg/kg q 12 h

11–14 kg: FPV 30 mg/kg + RTV 3 mg/kg q 12 h

15–19 kg: FPV 23 mg/kg + RTV 3 mg/kg q 12 h

≥ 20 kg: FPV 18 mg/kg + RTV 3 mg/kg q 12 h

≥ 18 yr: FPV 700 mg + RTV 100 mg q 12 h

FPV may cause the following:

  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

  • Rash, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, fat maldistribution

  • Nephrolithiasis (rare)

  • Multiple drug interactions

FPV contains a sulfonamide moiety; however, the degree of cross-reactivity with sulfa drugs is uncertain.

FPV is approved for use in children < 6 mo of age but pharmacokinetics are erratic; many experts recommend against use in children < 6 mo of age.

FPV must be given with food to enhance absorption.

Indinavir (IDV)

Capsules: 100, 200, and 400 mg

Given with low-dose RTV as a pharmacokinetic booster

< 13 yr: Not approved

13 yr: IDV 800 mg + RTV 200 mg q 12 h

IDV may cause the following:

  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

  • Rash, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, fat maldistribution

  • Crystalluria and symptomatic nephrolithiasis common, especially if patients not well-hydrated (children, incidence 29%; adults, incidence 12%)

An increased boosting dose of RTV is required.

IDV may be given without regard to food, but adequate hydration to minimize nephrolithiasis is required.

Lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r)

Oral solution: 80/20 mg/mL (contains 43% alcohol and 15% propylene glycol)

Film-coated tablets: 100/25 and 200/50 mg

< 2 wk: Do not use

2 wk–12 mo: 300 mg (of LPV component) per m 2 of body surface area q 12 h

1–17 yr:230–300 mg (of LPV component; many experts prefer the higher dosage) per m 2 of body surface area q 12 h (up to maximum of LPV 400 mg q 12 h)

18 yr: LPV 400 mg q 12 h

LPV/r may cause the following:

  • GI intolerance (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting)

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia (especially triglycerides), fat maldistribution

  • Possible prolongation of PR and QT intervals

  • Rash, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome

Do not give to premature or young neonates (ie, before 42 wk postmenstrual age or 14 days postnatal age) because of risk of life-threatening cardiotoxicity.

Once-daily dosing is not recommended for children or adolescents because of greater clearance.

A dose increase is required if patients are receiving concomitant NVP, EFV, FPV, or NFV.

LPV/r tablets may be given without regard to food, but the oral solution should be given with food to increase absorption and mask taste (very poor palatability).

Nelfinavir (NFV)

Tablets: 250 and 625 mg

< 2 yr: Not recommended

2–12 yr: 45–55 mg/kg q 12 h

13 yr: 1250 mg q 12 h

NFV may cause the following:

  • Diarrhea

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, fat maldistribution

Tablets may be dissolved in a small amount of water for easier administration.

NFV should be given with a meal or a light snack.

Ritonavir (RTV)

Oral solution: 80 mg/mL (contains 43% alcohol by volume)

Capsule: 100 mg

Tablet: 100 mg

As a pharmacokinetic booster, 100 mg q 12 h (except 200 mg q 12 h with IDV or TPV)

RTV may cause the following:

  • GI intolerance (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting)

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia (especially triglycerides), fat maldistribution

  • Rash, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome

RTV is very rarely used as a primary ARV drug because of GI intolerance at higher doses.

RTV is best absorbed when given with food. Tablets may be more palatable than capsules, but both are superior to liquid, which is poorly palatable. The oral solution may be given with certain foods (eg, chocolate milk, ice cream, peanut butter) to mask its taste.

Saquinavir (SQV)

Hard gel capsule: 200 mg

Film-coated tablet: 500 mg

Given with low-dose RTV as a pharmacokinetic booster

< 16 yr: Unknown

16 yr: SQV 1000 mg + RTV 100 mg q 12 h

SQV may cause the following:

  • GI intolerance (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting)

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, fat maldistribution

  • Possible prolongation of PR and QT intervals

SQV should be given with food to maximize absorption.

Tipranavir (TPV)

Oral solution: 100 mg/mL (also contains 116 IU of vitamin E/mL)

Capsule: 250 mg

Given with RTV as pharmacokinetic booster

< 2 yr: Not approved

2–17 yr: TPV 14 mg/kg + RTV 6 mg/kg q 12 h (up to TPV 500 mg + RTV 200 mg q 12 h)

18 yr: TPV 500 mg + RTV 200 mg q 12 h

TPV may cause the following:

  • GI intolerance, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

  • Rash

  • Hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, fat maldistribution

  • Possible increased bleeding, including rare cases of fatal and nonfatal intracranial hemorrhage

  • Multiple drug interactions

TPV contains a sulfonamide moiety; however, degree of cross-reactivity with sulfa drugs is uncertain.

TPV is not recommended for ARV drug-naive patients.

The vitamin E concentration in the oral solution is greater than the recommended daily allowance for vitamin E, so additional vitamin E supplementation should be avoided.

An increased boosting dose of RTV is required.

TPV should be given with food.

Entry inhibitor (CCR5 antagonist)

Maraviroc (MVC)

Tablets: 150 and 300 mg

< 16 yr: Unknown

16 yr: 150, 300, or 600 mg q 12 h depending on coadministered CYP3A inducers or inhibitors (package insert should be consulted)

MVC may cause the following:

  • Cough, fever, rash, abdominal pain

  • Hepatotoxicity (may be preceded by severe rash and/or significant allergic reaction)

  • Orthostatic hypotension (especially in patients with severe renal insufficiency)

  • Multiple drug interactions

MVC is effective against only CCR5-tropic HIV; an HIV tropism assay is required before use.

MVC should be given with food.

Fusion inhibitor

Enfuvirtide (ENF, T20)

Lyophilized powder for injection: Delivers 90 mg/mL

6–15 yr: 2 mg/kg sc q 12 h (up to 90 mg sc q 12 h)

16 yr: 90 mg sc q 12 h

ENF may cause the following:

  • Local injection site reaction (eg, pain, discomfort, induration, erythema, nodules, ecchymosis) in 88–98% of patients (application of ice or heat or gentle massage after injection may minimize discomfort and reactions)

  • Hypersensitivity reaction (< 1% incidence of fever, malaise, nausea, vomiting, chills, possibly elevated hepatic transaminases)

    If hypersensitivity reaction occurs, no rechallenge is done.

ENF may be given without regard to food.

Integrase inhibitor

Dolutegravir (DTG)

Tablet: 50 mg

< 12 yr: Not recommended

12 yr: 50 mg q 12 h or q 24 h depending on coadministered UGT1A or CYP3A inducers or inhibitors (package insert should be consulted)

DTG may cause the following:

  • Insomnia

  • Headache

DTG may be given without regard to food; however, it should be given 2 h before or 6 h after divalent cation-containing oral antacids, laxatives, sucralfate, iron supplements, Ca supplements, or buffered drugs.

Elvitegravir (EVG)

Tablet: 150 mg (available only as fixed-dose combination tablet with FTC, TDF, and cobicistat [COBI])

<18 yr: Not recommended

≥ 18 yr: 1 combination tablet q 24 h

EVG may cause the following:

  • Diarrhea, nausea

  • Renal insufficiency, decreased bone mineral density (see TDF)

  • Severe exacerbation of hepatitis in patients coinfected with hepatitis B infection if coformulation containing FTC or TDF is discontinued suddenly

EVG is coformulated with cobicistat (COBI), a pharmacokinetic booster.

EVG should be given with food.

Raltegravir (RAL)

Chewable tablets: 25 and 100 mg

Film-coated tablet: 400 mg

< 2 yr: Not recommended

2–11 yr: Weight-based dosing (number and type of tablet):

10–13 kg: 75 mg q 12 h (3 x 25-mg chewables)

14–19 kg: 100 mg q 12 h (1 x 100-mg chewable)

20–27 kg: 150 mg q 12 h (1.5 x 100-mg chewables)

28–39 kg: 200 mg q 12 h (2 x 100-mg chewables)

≥ 40 kg: 300 mg q 12 h (3 x 100-mg chewables)

12 yr: 400 mg q 12 h (1 x 400-mg film-coated)

RAL may cause the following:

  • Nausea, headache, diarrhea, fatigue

  • Rash, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome

  • Creatine phosphokinase elevation; rarely, rhabdomyolysis

Chewable tablets may be chewed or swallowed whole but are not interchangeable with film-coated tablets.

RAL may be given without regard to food.

Fixed-dose combination products

ZDV/3TC (Combivir ® )

Combination tablets: ZDV 300 mg + 3TC 150 mg

30 kg: 1 tablet q 12 h

See individual drugs

ZDV/3TC/ABC (Trizivir ® )

Combination tablets: ZDV 300 mg + 3TC 150 mg + ABC 300 mg

> 40 kg: 1 tablet q 12 h

See individual drugs

3TC/ABC (Epzicom ® , Kivexa ® )

Combination tablets: 3TC 300 mg + ABC 600 mg

> 16 yr and > 50 kg: 1 tablet q 24 h

See individual drugs

FTC/TDF (Truvada ® )

Combination tablets: FTC 200 mg + TDF 300 mg

12 yr and ≥ 35 kg: 1 tablet q 24 h

See individual drugs

FTC/TDF/EFV (Atripla ® )

Combination tablets: FTC 200 mg + TDF 300 mg + 600 mg EFV

12 yr and ≥ 40 kg: 1 tablet q 24 h

See individual drugs

FTC/TDF/RPV (Complera ® )

Combination tablets: FTC 200 mg + TDF 300 mg + RPV 25 mg

≥ 18 yr: 1 tablet q 24 h

See individual drugs

FTC/TDF/EVG/COBI (Stribild ® )

Combination tablets: FTC 200 mg + TDF 300 mg + EVG 150 mg + COBI 150 mg

≥ 18 yr: 1 tablet q 24 h

See individual drugs

*For information on adverse effects, other doses (especially for information on fixed-dose combination products), and drug interactions, see the continually updated Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy and Medical Management of HIV-Infected Children, a Working Group of the Office of AIDS Research Council. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in pediatric HIV infection, November 5, 2012. Available at www.aidsinfo.nih.gov .

Tenofovir is functionally grouped within the NRTIs but is actually a nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor by chemical structure.

The dosing for zidovudine should be reduced for premature infants < 35 wk gestation; see Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy and Medical Management of HIV-Infected Children, a Working Group of the Office of AIDS Research Council. Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral agents in pediatric HIV infection, November 1, 2012. Available at www.aidsinfo.nih.gov .

ARV = antiretroviral; RTV = ritonavir.

Indications

Initiation of ART for children is similar but not identical to that in adults; for children, initiation of therapy primarily depends on immunologic and clinical criteria with additional characteristics of age and, in some situations, plasma HIV viral load. The goal of therapy, is similar to that in adults: to suppress HIV replication (as measured by plasma HIV RNA PCR viral load) and maintain or achieve age-normal CD4+ counts and percentages with the least amount of drug toxicity. Before making the decision to initiate therapy, the practitioner should fully assess the readiness of the caregiver and child to adhere with ARV drug administration and discuss the potential benefits and risks of therapy. Because expert opinions on therapeutic strategies change rapidly, consultation with specialists is strongly advised.

Treatment initiation criteria vary with age and clinical criteria ( Indications for Initiation of Antiretroviral Therapy in HIV-Infected Children and Adolescents). Criteria for treatment also vary depending on the local drug formulary and laboratory monitoring resources available in countries around the world. The recommendations in this discussion are for children and adolescents in the US; the WHO recommends ART for all children < 5 yr of age with varying levels of prioritization.

Indications for Initiation of Antiretroviral Therapy in HIV-Infected Children and Adolescents

Age

Criteria

Recommendation*

< 12 mo

Regardless of clinical symptoms, immune status, or viral load

Treat

1–< 3 yr

AIDS or significant HIV-related symptoms (CDC clinical categories B and C, excluding the B condition of a single serious bacterial infection— Clinical Categories for Children Aged 13 Yr With HIV Infection)

Treat

CD4 cell count < 1000 cells/μL or CD4 percentage < 25%

Treat

Asymptomatic or mild symptoms (CDC clinical category A or N, or Category B condition of single episode of serious bacterial infection) and CD4 cell count ≥ 1000 cells/μL or CD4 percentage ≥ 25%

Treatment considered, especially if HIV plasma viral load is > 100,000 copies/mL

3–< 5 yr

AIDS or significant HIV-related symptoms (CDC clinical categories B and C, excluding the B condition of a single serious bacterial infection)

Treat

CD4 cell count < 750 cells/μL or CD4 percentage < 25%

Treat

Asymptomatic or mild symptoms (CDC clinical category A or N, or Category B condition of single episode of serious bacterial infection) and CD4 cell count ≥ 750 cells/μL or CD4 percentage ≥ 25%

Treatment considered, especially if HIV plasma viral load is > 100,000 copies/mL

5–< 13 yr

AIDS or significant HIV-related symptoms (CDC clinical categories B and C, excluding the B condition of a single serious bacterial infection)

Treat

CD4 cell count repeatedly ≤ 500 cells/μL

Treatment, especially for children with CD4 cell count < 350 cells/μL; evidence less strong for those with 350–500 cells/μL

Asymptomatic or mild symptoms (CDC clinical category A or N, or Category B condition of single episode of serious bacterial infection) and CD4 cell count > 500 cells/μL

Treatment considered, especially if HIV plasma viral load is > 100,000 copies/mL or if ≥ 13 yr of age

≥ 13 yr

Regardless of clinical symptoms, immune status, or viral load

Treat, especially adolescents with CD4 cell counts < 350 cells/μL, or who are sexually active (recommendations as for adults)

*Before deciding to initiate therapy, practitioners should assess the following issues in discussion with the caregiver (and child, if age-appropriate): a plan for regular adherence with ARV drug administration; potential benefits and risks of therapy; and readiness to begin combination ART. Children for whom initiation of therapy is temporarily deferred require close clinical follow-up. Factors that should encourage initiation include age < 12 mo, increasing HIV RNA levels (eg, approaching 100,000 copies/mL), decreasing CD4+ counts or percentages approaching the age-related threshold for therapy, and development of clinical symptoms.

ARV = antiretroviral; ART = antiretroviral therapy; CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For information on adverse effects, other doses (especially for information on fixed-dose combination products), and drug interactions, see the continually updated Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy and Medical Management of HIV-Infected Children, a Working Group of the Office of AIDS Research Council. Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection, November 5, 2012. Available at www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines.

Adherence

Therapy will be successful only if the family and child are able to adhere to a possibly complex medical regimen. Nonadherence not only leads to failure to control HIV but also selects drug-resistant HIV strains, which reduces future therapeutic choices. Barriers to adherence should be addressed before starting treatment. Barriers include availability and palatability of pills or suspensions, adverse effects (including those due to drug interactions with current therapy), pharmacokinetic factors such as the need to take some drugs with food or in a fasted state, and a child’s dependence on others to give drugs (and HIV-infected parents may have problems with remembering to take their own drugs). Newer once- or twice-daily combination regimens and more palatable pediatric formulations may help improve adherence.

Adherence may be especially problematic in adolescents regardless of whether they have been infected perinatally or have acquired HIV infection later on through sexual activity or injection drug use. Adolescents have complex biopsychosocial issues, such as low self-esteem, chaotic and unstructured lifestyles, fear of being singled out because of illness, and sometimes a lack of family support, all of which may reduce drug adherence. In addition, adolescents may not be developmentally able to understand why drugs are necessary during periods of asymptomatic infection and they may worry greatly about adverse effects. Despite frequent contact with the medical system, perinatally infected adolescents may fear or deny their HIV infection, distrust information provided by the health care team, and poorly make the transition to the adult health care system (see Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection in Infants and Children : Transition to Adult Care). Treatment regimens for adolescents must balance these issues. Although the goal is to have the adolescent adhere to a maximally potent regimen of ARV drugs, a realistic assessment of the adolescent's maturity and support systems may suggest that the treatment plan begin by focusing on avoidance of opportunistic illness and provide information about reproductive health services, housing, and how to succeed in school. Once care team members are confident the adolescent is receiving proper support, they can decide exactly which ARV drugs are best.

Monitoring

Clinical and laboratory monitoring are important for identifying drug toxicity and therapeutic failure.

  • Every 3 to 4 mo : Physical examination, CBC, serum chemistry values, including electrolytes, liver and kidney function tests, amylase and lipase (if taking drugs with pancreatic toxicity, eg, didanosine), HIV RNA viral load, and lymphocyte subsets

  • Every 6 to 12 mo: Lipid profiles, total protein/albumin, Ca/phosphate, amylase and lipase (if not taking drugs with pancreatic toxicity), urinalysis

If children have a stable treatment status, ie, nondetectable HIV RNA and normal age-adjusted CD4 lymphocyte counts and percentages without clinical signs of toxicity for at least 12 mo, and a stable family support system, many clinicians will extend the interval of laboratory evaluations to every 6 mo. However, clinical care visits every 3 mo are valuable because clinicians have the opportunity to review adherence, monitor growth and clinical symptoms, and update weight-based dosing of ARV drugs as needed.

Vaccination

Routine pediatric vaccination protocols ( Childhood Vaccination Schedule) are recommended for children with HIV infection, with several exceptions. The main exception is that live-virus vaccines and live-bacteria vaccines (eg, BCG) should be avoided or used only in certain circumstances ( Considerations for Use of Live Vaccines in Children With HIV Infection). In addition, 1 to 2 mo after the last dose of the hepatitis B vaccine series, HIV-infected children should be tested to determine whether the level of antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) is protective ( 10 mIU/mL). HIV-infected children and adolescents < 18 yr of age should be immunized with 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-13) as well as pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV). Certain postexposure treatment recommendations also differ.

Live oral poliovirus vaccine and live-attenuated influenza vaccine are not recommended; however, inactivated influenza vaccination should be given yearly.

The live measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and varicella vaccines should not be given to children with manifestations of severe immunosuppression. However, the MMR and varicella-zoster virus (VZV) vaccines (separately; not combined as MMRV vaccine, which has a higher titer of attenuated varicella virus, the safety of which has not been shown in this population) can be given to asymptomatic patients following the routine schedule and to patients who have had HIV symptoms but who are not severely immunocompromised (ie, not in category 3 [ Immunologic Categories for Children 13 Yr With HIV Infection Based on Age-Specific CD4+ T-Cell Counts and Percentages of Total Lymphocyte Counts], including having a CD4+ T-cell percentage of 15%). If possible, the MMR and VZV vaccines should be given starting at age 12 mo in symptomatic patients to enhance the likelihood of an immune response, ie, before the immune system deteriorates. The 2nd dose of each may be given as soon as 4 wk later in an attempt to induce seroconversion as early as possible, although typically a 3-mo interval between varicella vaccine doses is preferred in noninfected children < 13 yr. If the risk of exposure to measles is increased, such as during an outbreak, the measles vaccine should be given at an earlier age, such as 6 to 9 mo.

The live oral rotavirus vaccine may be given to HIV-exposed or HIV-infected infants according to the routine schedule. Safety and efficacy data are limited in symptomatic infants but there very likely is overall benefit to immunization, particularly in areas where rotavirus causes significant mortality.

The BCG vaccine is not recommended in the US because it is an area of low TB prevalence. However, elsewhere in the world, especially in developing countries where TB prevalence is high, BCG is routinely used; many of these countries also have high HIV prevalence among childbearing women. BCG as a live bacterial vaccine has caused some harm in HIV-infected children but likely protects non–HIV-infected and even some HIV-infected children from acquiring TB. Thus, the WHO now recommends that children who are known to be HIV-infected, even if asymptomatic, should no longer be immunized with BCG vaccine. However, BCG may be given to asymptomatic infants of unknown HIV infection status born to HIV-infected women, depending on the relative incidence of TB and HIV in the particular area. BCG also may be given to asymptomatic infants born to women of unknown HIV infection status.

In some areas of the world, children are routinely given the yellow fever vaccine; it should be given only to those without severe immunosuppression.

Because children with symptomatic HIV infection generally have poor immunologic responses to vaccines, they should be considered susceptible when they are exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease (eg, measles, tetanus, varicella) regardless of their vaccination history. Such children should receive passive immunization with IV immune globulin. IV immune globulin also should be given to any nonimmunized household member who is exposed to measles.

Seronegative children living with a person with symptomatic HIV infection should receive inactivated poliovirus vaccine rather than oral polio vaccine. Influenza (inactivated or live), MMR, varicella, and rotavirus vaccines may be given normally because these vaccine viruses are not commonly transmitted by the vaccinee. Adult household contacts should receive annual influenza vaccination (inactivated or live) to reduce the risk of transmitting influenza to the HIV-infected person.

Considerations for Use of Live Vaccines in Children With HIV Infection

Live Vaccine

Comments

BCG

Not recommended in US; internationally, may be given to HIV-exposed neonates of unknown HIV infection status (see Vaccinationsee Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection in Infants and Children:Vaccination)

Oral poliovirus

Not recommended in US; inactivated polio vaccine given instead according to routine schedule*

Live-attenuated influenza (LAI)

Not recommended; inactivated vaccine given instead according to routine schedule*

Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)

Can be given to children whose CD4+ T-cell percentage is 15%

Administration at 12 mo of age followed by 2nd dose within 1–3 mo enhances likelihood of response before HIV-induced immunologic decline occurs

MMR plus separate varicella-zoster virus (VZV) vaccine preferred over MMRV to minimize adverse effects

If risk of exposure to measles is increased (eg, during an outbreak), given at a younger age (eg, 6–9 mo); however, this dose not considered part of routine schedule (ie, restart at 12 mo)

Rotavirus, live-attenuated

Limited evidence to date suggests that benefits of vaccine very likely outweigh its risks

Varicella-zoster virus (VZV)

Can be given to children whose CD4+ T-cell percentage is 15%

Administration at 12 mo of age followed by 2nd dose within 1–3 mo enhances likelihood of response before HIV-induced immunologic decline occurs

MMR plus separate VZV vaccine preferred over MMRV to minimize adverse effects

*Given according to the usual pediatric immunization schedule (see Recommended Immunization Schedule for Ages 0–6 yr and Recommended Immunization Schedule for Ages 7–18 yr).

AAP = American Academy of Pediatrics; ACIP = Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices; MMRV = measles-mumps-rubella-varicella.

Transition to Adult Care

Transition of HIV-infected youth from the pediatric health care model to the adult health care model takes time and advance planning. This process is active and ongoing and does not simply involve a one-time referral to an adult care clinic or office. The pediatric health care model tends to be family-centered, and the care team includes a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, and mental health professionals; perinatally infected youth may have been cared for by such a team for their entire life. In contrast, the typical adult health care model tends to be individual-centered, and the health care practitioners involved may be located in separate offices requiring multiple visits. Health care practitioners at adult care clinics and offices are often managing high patient volumes, and the consequences of lateness or missed appointments (which may be more common among adolescents) are stricter. Finally, changes in insurance coverage in adolescence or young adulthood can complicate transition of medical care as well. Planning transition over several months and having adolescents have discussions or joint visits with the pediatric and adult health care practitioners can lead to a smoother and more successful transition. Several resources for transition of HIV-infected youth into adult health care are now available from the American Academy of Pediatrics (see Policy Statement: Transitioning HIV-Infected Youth Into Adult Health Care ) and the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute (access www.hivguidelines.orgsee Transitioning HIV-Infected Adolescents Into Adult Care ).

Prevention

For postexposure prevention, see Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Prevention of perinatal transmission

Appropriate prenatal ART attempts to optimize maternal health, interrupt MTCT, and minimize in utero drug toxicity. In the US and other countries where ARV drugs and HIV testing are readily available, treatment with ARV drugs is standard for all HIV-infected pregnant women (see Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection : Treatment). Rapid HIV testing of pregnant women who present in labor without documentation of their HIV serostatus may allow immediate institution of such measures.

All HIV-infected pregnant women should initiate combination ART to prevent MTCT, as well as for their own health, beginning at 14 to 34 wk gestation. Pregnancy is not a contraindication to combination ARV regimens, although the use of efavirenz is generally contraindicated during the 1st trimester. Most experts believe that HIV-infected women already receiving combination ART who become pregnant should continue that therapy, even during the 1st trimester. An alternative is to stop all therapy until the beginning of the 2nd trimester and resume at that time.

Combination ARV oral therapy is continued throughout the pregnancy, and IV ZDV is given during labor, at 2 mg/kg IV for the first hour and then 1 mg/kg/h IV until delivery. Some experts now believe that IV ZDV is not required for women receiving combination ART who have achieved HIV plasma RNA viral loads < 400 copies/mL near delivery; others recommend its use regardless of the degree of virologic control. In the immediate postpartum period, a decision can be made whether to continue maternal therapy for those women who were not receiving therapy prior to pregnancy.

The full-term neonate is given ZDV 4 mg/kg po q 12 h for the first 6 wk of life. This regimen is the backbone of infant prophylaxis, utilized for all infants born to HIV-infected women regardless of the woman's degree of virologic control. If virologic control is poor, however, additional interventions are considered.

Elective cesarean delivery before onset of labor is recommended if the maternal viral load is > 1000 copies/mL. If labor has already begun, it is less certain whether cesarean delivery will contribute to further reduction of MTCT.

For HIV-infected pregnant women who present in labor and have had no prior therapy, ART is immediately initiated. Women and their infants are given ZDV as described previously (ie, the women receive drugs IV during labor and delivery; the infants receive drugs by mouth). Many authorities recommend additional ARV drugs in this situation, but very few ARV drugs (notably zidovudine, nevirapine, lamivudine, and emtricitabine) are known to be safe and effective for infants < 14 days postnatal age, and fewer still have dosing data available for premature infants. Recent clinical trial data suggest that oral zidovudine, given for 6 wk and supplemented with several doses of nevirapine given over the first several days of life, can significantly reduce MTCT among infants born to women who did not receive any antepartum therapy. An expert in pediatric or maternal HIV infection should be immediately consulted (see information at www.aidsinfo.nih.gov www.aidsinfo.nih.gov or www.nccc.ucsf.edu www.nccc.ucsf.edu).

Although the final decision to accept ART remains with the pregnant woman, it should be stressed that the proven benefits of therapy far outweigh the theoretical risks of fetal toxicity.

Breastfeeding (or donating to milk banks) is contraindicated for HIV-infected women in the US and other countries where safe and affordable alternative sources of feeding are readily available. However, in countries where infectious diseases and undernutrition are major causes of early childhood mortality and safe, affordable infant formula is not available, the protection breastfeeding offers against the mortality risks of respiratory and GI infections may counterbalance the risk of HIV transmission. In these developing countries, the WHO recommends that HIV-infected mothers continue to breastfeed for the first 6 mo of the infant's life and then rapidly wean the infant to food.

Prevention of adolescent transmission

Because adolescents are at special risk of HIV infection, they should receive education, have access to HIV testing, and know their serostatus. Education should include information about transmission, implications of infection, and strategies for prevention, including abstaining from high-risk behaviors and engaging in safe sex practices (eg, correct and consistent use of condoms [see Condoms]) for those who are sexually active. Efforts should especially target adolescents at high risk of HIV infection, in particular, black and Hispanic adolescent men who have sex with other men because this is the fastest-growing US demographic of new HIV infections among youth; however, all adolescents should receive risk-reduction education.

In most US states, informed consent is necessary for testing and the release of information regarding HIV serostatus. Decisions regarding disclosure of HIV status to a sex partner without the patient’s consent should be based on the possibility of domestic violence to the patient after disclosure to the partner, likelihood that the partner is at risk, whether the partner has reasonable cause to suspect the risk and to take precautions, and presence of a legal requirement to withhold or disclose such information. For further discussion, see www.hivguidelines.org or www.aidsinfo.nih.gov .For further discussion, see www.hivguidelines.org or www.aidsinfo.nih.gov

Prevention of opportunistic infections

Prophylactic drug treatment is recommended in certain HIV-infected children for prevention of Pneumocystis pneumonia and M. avium complex infections. Data are limited on the use of prophylaxis for opportunistic infection by other organisms, such as cytomegalovirus, fungi, and toxoplasma. Guidance on prophylaxis of these and other opportunistic infections is also available at www.aidsinfo.nih.gov .

Prophylaxis against Pneumocystis pneumonia is indicated for

  • HIV-infected children > 6 yr of age with CD4+ count < 200 cells/mL or CD4+ percentage < 15%

  • HIV-infected children 1 to 5 yr of age with CD4+ count < 500 cells/mL or CD4+ percentage < 15%

  • HIV-infected infants < 12 mo of age regardless of CD4+ count or percentage (at 1 yr of age, need for prophylaxis is reassessed using CD4+ counts and percentages)

  • Infants born to HIV-infected women (beginning at 4 to 6 wk of age), until HIV infection is either presumptively excluded (by documentation of 2 negative virologic test results, 1 at 2 wk of age and 1 at 4 wk of age) or definitively excluded (by documentation of 2 negative virologic test results, 1 at 1 mo of age and 1 at 4 mo of age) (N ote : For these definitions of HIV exclusion to be valid, the infant must not be breastfeeding.)

Once immune reconstitution with combination ART occurs, discontinuation of Pneumocystis pneumonia prophylaxis may be considered for HIV-infected children who have received combination ART for > 6 mo and whose CD4+ percentage and CD4+ count have remained higher than the previously described treatment thresholds for > 3 consecutive mo. Subsequently, the CD4+ percentage and count should be reevaluated at least every 3 mo, and prophylaxis should be reinstituted if the original criteria are reached.

The drug of choice for Pneumocystis prophylaxis at any age is trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX) TMP 75 mg/SMX 375 mg/m 2 po bid on 3 consecutive days/wk (eg, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday); alternative schedules include the same dose 2 times/day every day, the same dose 2 times/day on alternate days, or twice the dose (TMP 150 mg/SMX 750 mg/m 2 ) po once/day for 3 consecutive days/wk. Some experts find it easier to use weight-based dosing (TMP 2.5 to 5 mg/SMX 12.5 to 25 mg/kg po bid).

For patients who cannot tolerate TMP/SMX, dapsone 2 mg/kg (not to exceed 100 mg) po once/day is an alternative, especially for those < 5 yr of age. Oral atovaquone given daily or aerosolized pentamidine (300 mg via specially designed inhaler for children ≥ 5 yr) given once/mo is an additional alternative. IV pentamidine has also been used but is both less effective and more toxic.

Prophylaxis against Mycobacterium avium complex infection is indicated in

  • Children 6 yr with CD4+ count < 50/mL

  • Children 2 to 6 yr with CD4+ count < 75/mL

  • Children 1 to 2 yr with CD4+ count <500/mL

  • Children < 1 yr with CD4+ count < 750/mL

Weekly azithromycin or daily clarithromycin is the drug of choice, and daily rifabutin is an alternative.

Key Points

  • Most HIV cases in infants and children result from MTCT before or during birth, or from breastfeeding.

  • Maternal antiretroviral treatment can reduce incidence of MTCT from about 25% to < 1%.

  • Diagnose children < 18 mo using qualitative RNA assays (eg, transcription-mediated amplification of RNA) or DNA PCR assays.

  • Diagnose children > 18 mo using a 4th-generation HIV-1/2 antigen/antibody combination immunoassay followed by a 2nd-generation HIV-1/2 antibody differentiation assay and, if required, an HIV-1 qualitative RNA assay.

  • Treat all infected children < 12 mo and ≥ 13 yr and those of other ages who have significant symptoms and a low CD4+ count, particularly if their HIV RNA levels are high.

  • Combination ART is given, preferably using a fixed-dose combination product if feasible, for increased adherence.

  • Give prophylaxis for opportunistic infections based on age and CD4+ count.

Resources In This Article

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

  • Drug Name
    Select Trade
  • RETROVIR
  • APTIVUS
  • ISENTRESS
  • INVIRASE
  • FUZEON
  • VIREAD
  • EMTRIVA
  • EPIVIR
  • LEXIVA
  • VIRAMUNE
  • CRIXIVAN
  • ZIAGEN
  • VIDEX
  • ZERIT
  • EDURANT
  • PREZISTA
  • NORVIR
  • INTELENCE
  • SELZENTRY
  • SUSTIVA
  • VIRACEPT
  • REYATAZ
  • CARAFATE
  • ACZONE
  • ZITHROMAX
  • NEBUPENT
  • MYCOBUTIN
  • MEPRON
  • No US brand name
  • BIAXIN

* This is a professional Version *