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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Undernutrition among HIV-positive children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: antiretroviral therapy alone is not enough

Bruno F Sunguya1, Krishna C Poudel1*, Keiko Otsuka1, Junko Yasuoka1, Linda B Mlunde1, David P Urassa2, Namala P Mkopi3 and Masamine Jimba1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community and Global Health, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan

2 School of Public Health and Social Sciences, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, P.O Box 65489, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

3 Department of Pediatric and Child Health, Muhimbili National Hospital, P.O Box 65000, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:869  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-869

Published: 16 November 2011

Abstract

Background

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has exacerbated the impact of childhood undernutrition in many developing countries, including Tanzania. Even with the provision of antiretroviral therapy, undernutrition among HIV-positive children remains a serious problem. Most studies to examine risk factors for undernutrition have been limited to the general population and ART-naive HIV-positive children, making it difficult to generalize findings to ART-treated HIV-positive children. The objectives of this study were thus to compare the proportions of undernutrition among ART-treated HIV-positive and HIV-negative children and to examine factors associated with undernutrition among ART-treated HIV-positive children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Methods

From September to October 2010, we conducted a cross-sectional survey among 213 ART-treated HIV-positive and 202 HIV-negative children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We measured the children's anthropometrics, socio-demographic factors, food security, dietary habits, diarrhea episodes, economic status, and HIV clinical stage. Data were analyzed using both univariate and multivariate methods.

Results

ART-treated HIV-positive children had higher rates of undernutrition than their HIV-negative counterparts. Among the ART-treated HIV-positive children, 78 (36.6%) were stunted, 47 (22.1%) were underweight, and 29 (13.6%) were wasted. Households of ART-treated HIV-positive children exhibited lower economic status, lower levels of education, and higher percentages of unmarried caregivers with higher unemployment rates. Food insecurity was prevalent in over half of ART-treated HIV-positive children's households. Furthermore, ART-treated HIV-positive children were more likely to be orphaned, to be fed less frequently, and to have lower body weight at birth compared to HIV-negative children.

In the multivariate analysis, child's HIV-positive status was associated with being underweight (AOR = 4.61, 95% CI 1.38-15.36 P = 0.013) and wasting (AOR = 9.62, 95% CI 1.72-54.02, P = 0.010) but not with stunting (AOR = 0.68, 95% CI 0.26-1.77, P = 0.428). Important factors associated with underweight status among ART-treated HIV-positive children included hunger (AOR = 9.90, P = 0.022), feeding frequency (AOR = 0.02, p < 0.001), and low birth weight (AOR = 5.13, P = 0.039). Factors associated with wasting among ART-treated HIV-positive children were diarrhea (AOR = 22.49, P = 0.001) and feeding frequency (AOR = 0.03, p < 0.001).

Conclusion

HIV/AIDS is associated with an increased burden of child underweight status and wasting, even among ART-treated children, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In addition to increasing coverage of ART among HIV-positive children, interventions to ameliorate poor nutrition status may be necessary in this and similar settings. Such interventions should aim at promoting adequate feeding patterns, as well as preventing and treating diarrhea.