Universal antiretroviral therapy for HIV-infected children: A review of the benefits and risks to consider during implementation


BACKGROUND: The 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection, recommended to start all HIV-infected children on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Here, we explore the possible benefits and risks of implementing universal ART for all HIV-infected children and adolescents and outline some of the key considerations that led to the 2016 revision of WHO guidelines. METHODS: We conducted a review of the published data from 2000 to 2016, to ascertain the clinical and programmatic benefits, as well as the risks of implementing universal ART for all children. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Universal ART for all children has the potential to increase treatment coverage, which in 2015 was only 51% globally, as well as providing several biological benefits, by preventing: premature death/loss to follow-up, progressive destruction of the immune system, poor growth and pubertal delay, poor neuro-cognitive outcomes and future burden to the health care system with complications of untreated HIV-infection. However, the strategy could be associated with risks, notably development of HIV drug resistance, antiretroviral drug toxicities and increased costs to an already stretched health system. CONCLUSION: Overall, our findings suggest that the benefits could outweigh the risks and support universal ART for all HIV-infected children, but recognize that national programmes will need to put measures in place to minimize the risks if they choose to implement the strategy


Barlow-Mosha L, Musiime V, Davies MA, Prendergast AJ, Musoke P, Siberry G, Penazzato M




  • Population(s)
    • Children or Youth (less than 18 years old)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Treatment


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