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An estimated 2.5 million children were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2009, 2.3 million (92%) in sub-Saharan Africa. Without treatment, a third of children with HIV will die of AIDS before their first birthday, half dying before two years of age. Hence, this study aimed to assess magnitude and predictors of mortality among children on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) at a referral hospital in North-West Ethiopia.
Institution based retrospective follow up study was carried out among HIV-positive children from January 1st, 2006 - March 31st, 2011. Information on relevant variables was collected from patients’ charts and registries. Life table was used to estimate the cumulative survival of children. Log rank tests were employed to compare survival between the different categories of the explanatory variables. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards model was fitted to identify predictors of mortality.
A total of 549 records were included in the analysis. The mean age at initiation of treatment was 6.35 ±3.78 SD years. The median follow up period was 22 months. At the end of the follow up, 41(7.5%) were dead and 384(69.9%) were alive. Mortality was 4.0 deaths per 100 child-years of follow-up period. The cumulative probabilities of survival at 3, 6, 12, 24, and 60 months of ART were 0.96, 0.94, 0.93, 0.92 and 0.83 respectively. Majority (90.2%) of the deaths occurred within the first year of treatment. Absence of cotrimoxazole preventive therapy (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] = 4.74, 95% CI: 2.17, 10.34), anaemia (haemoglobin level < 10gm/dl) (AHR=2.44, 95% CI: 1.26, 4.73), absolute CD4 cell count below the threshold for severe immunodeficiency (AHR=2.24, 95% CI: 1.07, 4.69) and delayed or regressing developmental milestones at baseline (AHR=6.31, 95% CI: 2.52, 15.83) were predictors of mortality.
There was a high rate of early mortality. Hence, starting ART very early reduces disease progression and early mortality; close follow up of all children of HIV-positive mothers is recommended to make the diagnosis and start treatment at an earlier time before they develop severe immunodeficiency.