Transmission rates of HIV-1 and the mortality rate in high risk infants exposed to HIV, in the PMTCT programme, at the Neonatal Unit, of King Edward VIII Hospital , Durban, South Africa.
Introduction. Previous studies have established that infants born to mothers with advanced HIV disease and co-infections are smaller, premature and have rapidly progressive HIV disease and an early death. King Edward VIIIth Hospital, in Durban, admits many sick mothers and manages a large proportion of low birth weight and ill newborns. On discharge and follow-up, the mortality and morbidity of these infants are known to be high and are related to the prematurity. How much is related to being HIV exposed is still uncertain. Aim. To determine the perinatal transmission rate of HIV-1 and mortality at 12 months in HIV exposed infants that were admitted to and discharged from the Neonatal Unit, in Durban, South Africa. Methods. In this observational study, data from the outpatient charts of HIV exposed infants that required specialised neonatal care and subsequent follow up, between the period November 2007 and December 2009, were collected. Perinatal transmission rates and mortality of these infants were compared with maternal and infant risk factors. Results. Data on 463 HIV exposed, predominantly low birth weight infants are presented. The median maternal CD4 count was 309cells/mm3 with 16.8% of mothers commenced on HAART. Maternal co-infection with TB was found in 19.2% of the cohort. Early HIV transmission occurred in 11.5% of infants and was influenced by the type of ARV exposure (None, 20%; single dose NVP, 14.3%; dual therapy, 10.6%; maternal HAART, 8.5%). The dual therapy regimen for 7 days was more protective than that for 28 days (p=0.045). HIV infection was associated with higher risk of neonatal sepsis (RR 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.3; p=0.015). The mortality for the cohort at 12 months was 10%. Maternal HAART was associated with a lower mortality: 2.95% vs.10.2% (RR 3.0; 95% CI, 0.4-20.5). There was a higher mortality rate in those that were low birth weight (RR 4.2; 95% CI, 1.02-18.8; p=0.037); those that were HIV infected (RR 4.8; 95% CI, 1.9-11.6; p=0.002) and those that were breastfeeding compared to formula feeding (RR 2.7; 95% CI, 1.1-6.8; p=0.038). Discussion. Rates of HIV transmission within the PMTCT programme were similar to that reported by the Department of Health. Early maternal ARVs for PMTCT prophylaxis, prevents HIV transmission. The coverage of maternal HAART was sub-optimal. Breastfeeding was associated with a higher HIV transmission rate and was most likely associated with non-exclusive breastfeeding during neonatal admission. Recommendations. Maternal HAART or ARV prophylaxis should be commenced early in the pregnancy for the best benefits. Meticulous attention should be paid to the feeding practices of high risk HIV exposed infants admitted for specialised neonatal care.
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