Children with HIV infection typically receive highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to preserve or restore their compromised immune function. However, for children with HIV infection who are also genetically susceptible to asthma, HAART treatment may be followed by the development of the condition.
Scientists have been uncertain whether the risk of asthma in children with treated HIV infection is actually increased, and whether HIV-infected children would also be at increased risk for eczema (atopic dermatitis), an asthma-associated skin condition. Moreover, it has been unclear whether the underlying disease process of asthma in HIV-infected children is the same or different from the disease process in children without HIV infection.
To better understand the interaction of HIV and asthma, scientists funded by the Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch analyzed data collected from medical charts of two groups of children ages 7 to 16 years in the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS), a multi-site study that was designed to evaluate the impact of HIV and antiretroviral drug treatment on children born to women with HIV. The first group included about 450 children who were infected with HIV, and the second group included about 225 children who were born to mothers with HIV infection, but who did not develop HIV infection.
Researchers found that HIV-infected children were more likely to develop asthma compared with children who were exposed to HIV but remained uninfected. The scientists also found that eczema was more common in HIV-infected children compared with children who were HIV-exposed but uninfected.
The finding that atopic dermatitis was linked to asthma in children with HIV, just as it is linked to children with asthma generally, suggests that what is classified as asthma in HIV-infected children is likely the same condition classified as asthma generally (PMID: 22094294).