The effects of caregiver and household HIV on child development: A community-based longitudinal study of young children.


Objective: Many studies that document child outcomes in the context of parental HIV-which has been established as a risk factor for child development-focus on older children/adolescents. Studies also concentrate on the status of the primary caregiver, not other household members who might be infected. Design: This study examined the effects of caregiver and household HIV on child development (4-13 years) in South Africa and Malawi (2011-2014). Methods: Data were gathered from 989 children and their primary caregivers at baseline and repeated at 12-15 months follow-up (86.5% follow-up rate). Only caregivers of a single child and caregiver/child dyads without missing data were included, providing a sample of 808 dyads for analysis. Children were divided into three groups according to caregiver-reported HIV burden: having an HIV-positive primary caregiver (19.8%), having HIV in the household (14.2%) or no HIV (66%). Results: The HIV burden was positively associated with an array of negative child outcomes, often mediated by caregiver depression levels. Family HIV burden at baseline affected child behavioural problems at follow-up indirectly through carer depression (B = 0.02; CI = 0.003, 0.06). Internalizing (B = 0.02; CI = 0.002, 0.05) and externalizing problems at follow-up (B = 0.01; CI = 0.0002, 0.03) were also indirectly affected by family HIV burden through caregiver depression. Conclusions: The data suggest that family HIV can affect child development, emphasizing the important role of depression in the pathway to such an effect. Community-based interventions directed at alleviating parental depression in the presence of HIV may help to interrupt the cycle of family HIV and adverse child outcomes.