INTRODUCTION: The development or aggravation of a pre-existing atopic state in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has not been thoroughly investigated in South Africa. HIV-infected adults have been shown to have a higher prevalence of atopy in some international studies, but this has not been documented in children.
METHODS: A prospective convenience sample of 50 children aged between 3 months and 12 years attending the Tshwane District Hospital Paediatric HIV clinic in Pretoria was recruited. Their personal and family histories of atopy, World Health Organization (WHO) HIV clinical staging and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) immunological staging with CD4 counts were documented. An age- and sex-matched control group of 50 HIV-negative children was included. Skin prick tests (SPTs) to identify common aeroallergens were conducted on all patients.
RESULTS: One hundred children were enrolled, with 50 in each group. Ten per cent of the HIV-infected patients compared with 16% of controls had positive SPTs to aeroallergens. A higher percentage of the HIV-infected patients had chronic rhinitis and eczema (60% and 68%, respectively). There was no relationship between CD4 count and positive SPTs (p=0.61), mean log CD4 count and presence of reported asthma (p=0.71), and CD4 count and presence of reported dermatitis (p=0.84). The CD4 count was not statistically different between children with and without a family history of atopy (p=0.68).
CONCLUSION: It appears that the stage of HIV disease does not influence the development or expression of allergy. There is a high prevalence of dermatitis and chronic rhinitis in HIV-infected children, probably not atopic in origin.