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Disease in children infected with HIV in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 10 February 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:335
  1. Sebastian B Lucas, research pathologista,
  2. Christopher S Peacock, medical scientific laboratory officer in histopathologyb,
  3. Anatole Hounnou, research pathologistb,
  4. Kari Brattegaard, laboratory managerb,
  5. Kouakou Koffi, pathologistc,
  6. Michel Honde, chief of pathologyc,
  7. Joseph Andoh, chief of paediatric servicesc,
  8. Jeanne Bell, neuropathologistd,
  9. Kevin M De Cock, directorb
  1. a Department of Histopathology, University College London Medical School, London WC1E 6JJ
  2. b Projet RETRO-CI, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
  3. c University Hospitals, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
  4. d Department of Neuropathology, Department of Pathology, University Medical School, Edinburgh EH4 2XU
  1. Correspondence to: Professor SB Lucas, Department of Histopathology, United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals, St Thomas's Hospital, London SE1 7EH.
  • Accepted 18 November 1995


Objective: To document the range of disease in African children infected with HIV.

Design: Necropsy results in consecutive children aged 1 month or more who were HIV positive and in children who were HIV negative for comparison; IgA western blots on serum samples from children under 2 years of age who were positive for HIV-1 to test the validity of routine HIV serology.

Setting: Largest hospital in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

Subjects: 78 children who were HIV positive and 77 children who were HIV negative on whom a necropsy was performed; their median ages at death were 18 and 21 months respectively. 36 HIV positive children and 29 HIV negative children were 1-14 months old; 42 HIV positive and 48 HIV negative children were >/=15 months old.

Main outcome measures: Cause of death and prevalence of diseases confirmed pathologically.

Results: Respiratory tract infections were more common in HIV positive than in HIV negative children (73 (94%) v 52 (68%); P<0.05), and were aetiologically heterogeneous. Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia was found in 11 out of 36 (31%) HIV positive children aged <15 months, but in no HIV negative children. Among older children measles was more common in HIV positive children (8/42 (19%) v 2/48 (4%); P<0.06). Pyogenic meningitis was present in similar proportions of HIV positive and HIV negative children aged <15 months (7/36 (19%) and 7/29 (24%)). In HIV positive children tuberculosis (1/78), lymphocytic interstitial pneumonitis (1/78), and HIV encephalitis (2/78) were rare.

Conclusions: There is greater overlap between diseases associated with HIV infection and other common health problems in African children than there is in adults. Compared with adults, HIV positive children had a high prevalence of P carinii pneumonia and a low prevalence of tuberculosis. Measles, but not malaria, was associated with HIV infection.

Key messages

  • Key messages

  • In regions with a poor clinical infrastructure necropsy provides information that cannot be obtained otherwise

  • This survey of children aged under 1 month to 12 years who died in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, found that a fifth were positive for HIV infection with a median age at death of 18 months

  • Almost a third of HIV positive children under 15 months old had Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a rate similar to that found in affected children in industrialised countries but much higher than the rate in affected adults in Abidjan

  • Measles was more common in children who were HIV positive, suggesting that vaccination would be a feasible intervention


  • Funding SBL and JB were supported by the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom. The necropsy project was also funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Global Programme on AIDS of the World Health Organisation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

  • Conflict of interest None.

  • Accepted 18 November 1995
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