Social Work HIV/AIDS and Children
Larry D. Icard, Omar Martinez, Benedict Raphael Oamen
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0322


Approximately 2.3 million children are living with HIV globally. During childhood fundamental biological, psychological, physical, and social developments occur that become compromised by HIV/AIDS. The issues concerning HIV infections among children are complex and interrelated. Cognitive and social development, care and treatment, laws and policies, the management of associated comorbidities such as tuberculosis along with the influence of COVID-19 are among the current and controversial issues requiring attention. The heightened use of smartphones has created opportunities for using mobile health (mHealth) technologies to develop innovative interventions across the HIV continuum of care and treatment for mothers and children living with HIV. The literature and resources cited in this article address these issues under the topics of Child Development, Treatment and Care, and Laws and Policy.

Child Development

Studies evidence the impact HIV/AIDS has had on the neurological, psychological, and social development of children. Despite the early initiation of antiretroviral treatment, HIV continues to affect the cognitive development and functional impairment, including executive functioning of children living with HIV. For example, Boivin, et al. 2020 “found children living with HIV in sub-Saharan African exhibited poor neurological functioning compared to children who were not living with HIV (p. e110).” A more recent study, Phillips, et al. 2022, consistent with prior studies, observes children and adolescents with perinatally acquired HIV infection exhibit cognitive impairment. Numerous studies show children living with HIV are at risk for experiencing mental health problems. Betancourt, et al. 2013 constitutes an insightful article on factors contributing to resilience in families and children living with HIV. Children living with HIV are disproportionately affected by tuberculosis compared to uninfected children. Kay, et al. 2022 presents current data on the ever-changing field of HIV-associated child tuberculosis. COVID-19 has heightened the vulnerability of children living with HIV. Silva, et al. 2022 highlights the impact of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of children and adolescents living with HIV.

  • Betancourt, T. S., S. E. Meyers-Ohki, A. Charrow, and N. Hansen. 2013. Annual research review: Mental health and resilience in HIV/AIDS-affected children—A review of the literature and recommendations for future research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 54.4 (April): 423–444.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02613.x

    A review of the literature on individual, family, community, and cultural factors affecting the mental health and resilience in families and children living with HIV/AIDS.

  • Boivin, M. J., M. Chernoff, L. Fairlie, et al. 2020. African multi-site 2-year neuropsychological study of school-age children perinatally infected, exposed, and unexposed to human immunodeficiency virus. Clinical Infectious Diseases 71.7 (October): E105–E114.

    DOI: 10.1093/cid/ciz1088

    This multi-site study conducted in four countries in Africa found that despite initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in early childhood, children living with HIV had poorer neuropsychological performance, with progressively worsening congitive functions in planning and reasoning compared to children who were not living with HIV.

  • Kay, A. W., H. Rabie, E. Maleche-Obimbo, M. P. Sekadde, M. F. Cotton, and A. M. Mandalakas. 2022. HIV-associated tuberculosis in children and adolescents: Evolving epidemiology, screening, prevention and management strategies. Pathogens 11.1 (January): Article 33.

    DOI: 10.3390/pathogens11010033

    This paper provides a review of current and evolving data on HIV-associated TB in children and adolescents. Treatment options are discussed for managing TB in children living with HIV.

  • Phillips, N., K. G. Thomas, B. Mtukushe, et al. 2022. Youth perinatal HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders: Association with functional impairment. AIDS Care 24.2: 227–231.

    DOI: 10.1080/09540121.2021.1891191

    This study examined the degree of cognitive impairment, and the cognitive domains affected in children and adolescents with perinatally acquired HIV infection based on parent-rated information. Findings showed HIV-infected children exhibited significant functional impairment in the executive function and processing speed and in working memory compared to uninfected children and adolescents.

  • Silva, F. S. M., S. S. F. Machado, J. L. de Sousa Moreira, et al. 2022. COVID-19 and HIV among children and adolescents: Current inequalities. Journal of Pediatric Nursing 65:e9–e10.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.pedn.2021.12.003

    This brief report highlights the influence COVID-19 on psychological, social, economic, and medical conditions of children living with HIV.

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