In developing countries, where mother-to-child transmission of HIV through breast-feeding is common, little is known about the impact of postpartum transmission on child survival. This study assessed whether children infected postpartum have longer survival from time of infection versus those infected during gestation or delivery.
We used a prospective cohort study to analyze data from 213 HIV-infected children enrolled in a breast-feeding intervention trial in Lusaka, Zambia (2001 to 2004).
We compared mortality 1 year after HIV infection in children stratified by age of infection: 0 to 3 days (intrauterine [IU] group), 4 to 40 days (intrapartum/early postpartum [IP/EPP] group), and >40 days (postpartum [PP] group).
A total of 61, 71, and 81 children were infected in the IU, IP/EPP, and PP groups, respectively. Children with intrauterine or intrapartum/early postpartum transmission had higher mortality over the first 12 months after infection than children with postpartum transmission (P = 0.001 and P = 0.006, respectively); no differences were detected between children with intrauterine and intrapartum/early postpartum transmission. Nearly 20% of the IU and IP/EPP groups died by 100 days after infection, whereas nearly 10% of the PP group had died by this time. After adjusting for birth weight, maternal CD4 cell count, breast-feeding, and maternal death, children infected postpartum had one quarter the mortality rate (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.27, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.15 to 0.50) of those infected in utero. Stopping breast-feeding increased mortality in infected children (HR = 3.1, 95% CI: 1.8 to 5.3).
This study demonstrates a survival benefit among children infected postpartum versus children infected during pregnancy or delivery and a benefit to increased breast-feeding duration among infected children. Testing children for HIV early may provide a means to allow for earlier intervention.