Background: HIV has been a leading cause of death in Jamaican children aged # five years. Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are increasingly available in Jamaica through the Global Fund. Adverse effects of ARVs are a major cause for non-adherence to medications. Knowledge of the use and side effects of these drugs are crucial in the management of HIV-infected children as we scale-up the use of antiretroviral therapy, islandwide. We evaluated the adverse events and safety of antiretroviral therapy in children attending four Infectious Disease Clinics in Kingston, Jamaica, a resource limited setting.
Methods: Data for children prospectively enrolled in the Kingston Paediatric and Perinatal HIV/AIDS Programme during September 2002 to April 2005 were analyzed.
Results: Among 121 HIV-infected children, 77 (64%) were on ARVs, 90% had CDC class C disease, 60% were males and perinatal transmission predominated. AZT/3TC based regime was utilized in 93%, trimethoprim/sulphamethoxazole prophylaxis was used in 100% and five were completing antituberculous drugs. Anaemia occurred in all patients, with increased severity in those on ARVs. Macrocytosis occurred in 83% and thrombocytopenia in 8% of those on ARVs. Elevation of bilirubin, aspartate transaminase (AST) and alanine transaminase (ALT) levels and reversed albumin to globulin ratio prior to commencing ARVs, with significantly lower prevalence following use of ARVs emphasized the severity of HIV disease at time of ARV initiation. Clinical adverse reactions were uncommon and included nail discoloration (8%), vomiting (7%), nausea (3%), peripheral lipodystrophy (4%) and abnormal dreams (1%). Ten children required change of ARV medication because of severe adverse effects: three for severe anaemia with repeat blood transfusions, three for severe nevirapine-associated rash and four for indinavir-associated haematuria.
Conclusions: ARVs are being successfully initiated in HIV-infected Jamaican children using the public health model. The excellent safety profile, good tolerance and few reported significant adverse effects augur well as antiretroviral therapy is scaled-up islandwide.