The number of children infected with HIV has risen dramatically in developing countries. Symptoms of the infection in children include recurrent fungal infections, growth failure and behavioral abnormalities. Antibody testing is the most commonly used method to diagnose HIV infection.
According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), an estimated 1,000 babies are born with HIV every day, resulting in more than 250,000 new HIV infections in infants each year. It has been found that prevention, care, and treatment efforts for the pediatric HIV epidemic lag behind those implemented for adults. In July, USA Today reported the case of a nearly 4-year-old Mississippi girl who was thought to have been cured of HIV but continues to have detectable levels of the virus. According to the specialists, the baby has had the virus return after more than two years off anti-retroviral therapy.
According to the researchers in the Cell Press journal Trends in Microbiology, infants around the world are in need of new immune-based protective strategies, including vaccines delivered to mothers and babies and the means to boost potentially protective maternal antibodies.
Most HIV infections in children are passed from mother to child during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or breastfeeding. Many women in developing countries also have problems accessing antiretroviral therapies. According the United Nations program on HIV/AIDS, in 2012 only 62% of identified HIV-infected pregnant women benefited from optimal antiretroviral therapy for preventing transmission from the mother to the child during pregnancy, and only 49 percent were found to have received antiretroviral therapy during breastfeeding.
To a certain extent, diagnosing HIV infection in pregnant women can also help physicians treat the new born infant earlier. Early detection of HIV is crucial to make treatment more effective and to prevent transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced a new approach for HIV testing in laboratories. According to the CDC, implementing these new measures will allow HIV diagnosis up to 3 to 4 weeks sooner than the previous testing method. The recommended HIV Combo tests are available in the U.S. and are supplied by Abbott Laboratories and Alere Inc.