Children with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa remain undiagnosed

A recent study found that an HIV testing program in ZImbabwe failed to diagnose many cases of HIV in children over a two-year period.


The study, published July 25 in PLOS Medicine, highlighted the inadequate testing methods used to diagnose HIV in children ages 6 to 15 who attended seven local clinics in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Researchers at the Biomedical Research and Training Institute found during follow-up house-to-house surveys testing children age 8 to 17 for HIV using an oral test that 2.6 percent of children tested house-to-house were HIV positive and one third of those were undiagnosed.
“In order to diagnose all children with HIV it is not enough to test every child who comes to a clinic, because some HIV positive children either do not visit a clinic often or do not go with a guardian able to give consent for them to take an HIV test,” the authors said in a press release. “Other methods, such as community-based testing or targeted tracing, must be tried to reach the children who cannot be tested in the clinic.”

The study revealed that under the provider-initiated testing and counseling, or PITC, program, had identified between 18 percent and 42 percent of previously undiagnosed children over the two-year period.

“PITC can play an important role in increasing uptake of testing among older children and adolescents, but needs to better address barriers to testing in this population, and is likely not sufficient on its own,” researchers said.

By Amy Wallace