1080 | www.pidj.com The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal • Volume 32, Number 10, October 2013
Background: Early initiation of antiretroviral therapy depends on an early
infant diagnosis and is critical to reduce HIV-related infant mortality. We
describe the implementation of a routine prevention of mother-to-child
transmission program and focus on early infant diagnosis to identify oppor-
tunities to improve outcomes.
Methods: HIV-exposed infants and their mothers were enrolled in a pro-
spective, observational cohort study at a routine, hospital-based prevention
of mother-to-child transmission and HIV treatment service in Johannes-
burg, South Africa. Infant HIV status was determined by testing samples
collected between birth and 6 weeks and searching the national laboratory
information system for polymerase chain reaction results of defaulting
infants who accessed testing elsewhere.
Results: Of 838 enrolled infants, HIV status was determined for 606
(72.3%) by testing at the study site, 85 (10.1%) by accessing test results
from other facilities, 19 (2.3%) by testing stored samples and remained
unknown in 128 (15.3%) infants. In total, 38 perinatally HIV-infected
infants were identified. Thirty (79%) HIV-infected infants accessed 6-week
testing and initiated antiretroviral therapy at a median age of 16.0 weeks,
but only 14 were in care a median of 68 weeks later and 4 had died. Eight
(21%) HIV-infected infants, 2 of whom died, escaped identification by
routine testing. Their mothers were younger, more likely to be foreign and
accessed less optimal antenatal care.
Conclusions: Six-week testing delayed antiretroviral therapy initiation
beyond the time of early HIV-related infant mortality and missed one-fifth
of perinatally HIV-infected infants. Earlier diagnosis and improved reten-
tion in care are required to reduce infant mortality and accurately measure
elimination of mother-to-child transmission.
Key Words: HIV, diagnosis, infant, mortality, elimination of mother-to-
(Pediatr Infect Dis J 2013;32: 1080–1085)
HIV via mother-to-child transmission are at significantly increased
risk of mortality,1 with 20% of untreated perinatally infected infants
he HIV epidemic in South Africa contributes significantly to
pediatric morbidity and mortality. Infants who are infected with
dying by 3 months of life and 48% dying by 1 year.2 HIV-related
infant mortality peaks at 2–3 months of age3 and can only be
curbed with effective prevention of mother-to-child transmission
(PMTCT) programs that limit vertical transmission and provide
early treatment for infants who are infected with HIV.
Globally, only 28% of eligible children receive antiretrovi-
ral therapy (ART), half the treatment coverage achieved in adults
(54%),4 with similar trends evident in South Africa.5 Initiation of
ART is critically dependent on an accurate and timely diagnosis of
HIV infection. According to South African guidelines, HIV-exposed
infants should undergo diagnostic testing at 6 weeks of age using
an HIV DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.6,7 The rationale
behind this recommendation is that a single PCR test at 6 weeks of
age is able to detect virtually all in utero (IU) and intrapartum (IP)
infections,8 maximizing the number of infected infants that could
be identified by a complex and costly test in a low resource set-
ting.9 Six weeks also coincides with an established immunization
visit and was therefore practical from a programmatic perspective.
At the time, single dose nevirapine (sdNVP) was the only available
prophylaxis, exclusive formula feeding was recommended and ART
was initiated only once immunological deterioration occurred.
However, since the recommendation for 6-week diagnostic
testing was made, several critical factors have changed. The Chil-
dren with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy (CHER) study demon-
strated the importance of early ART initiation at a median age of 7
weeks to reduce infant morbidity and mortality.10 A peak in HIV-
related infant mortality at 2–3 months of age was recognized,3 fur-
ther emphasizing the need for early ART initiation to reduce infant
deaths. PMTCT guidelines were expanded to incorporate zidovu-
dine (AZT) as well as NVP,6,7 providing prophylactic cover at time
points associated with high rates of vertical transmission (viz. dur-
ing late pregnancy and the IP period), thus proportionately reduc-
ing IP infections. Initial estimates of early vertical or IU infections
detectable at birth of 38%11 are therefore no longer relevant. With
more extensive PMTCT prophylaxis and the availability of more
sensitive assays, the proportion of IU relative to IP infections has
increased to ±75%12,13 and more perinatally infected infants are
detectable at birth than at 6 weeks of age.12 Furthermore, the policy
of exclusive breast-feeding for HIV-exposed infants14,15 requires a
second PCR test in addition to the 6-week test to exclude postnatal
infections after weaning.6,7 Despite considerable evolution of the
early infant diagnosis (EID) environment, EID algorithms have
EID is not only essential to identify HIV-infected infants for
timely initiation of ART to reduce infant mortality but also required
for monitoring the PMTCT program as we aspire to elimination
of mother-to-child transmission (eMTCT) by 2015.16 EID services
need to be reassessed to optimize infant outcomes and accurately
monitor PMTCT program performance. This study describes the
implementation of a routine PMTCT program at an academic
hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, to identify opportunities
for improved outcomes in HIV-exposed infants, particularly with
respect to EID services.
Copyright © 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Birth Diagnosis of HIV Infection in Infants to Reduce Infant
Mortality and Monitor for Elimination of Mother-to-child
Rivka R. Lilian, BBiomedSci,* Emma Kalk, MD, PhD,*† Karl-Gunter Technau, MD, MSc,† and
Gayle G. Sherman, MD, PhD*‡§
Accepted for publication March 04, 2013.
From the *Paediatric HIV Diagnostic Syndicate, Wits Health Consortium;
†Department of Paediatrics, Empilweni Services and Research Unit, Rahima
Moosa Mother and Child Hospital, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of
the Witwatersrand; ‡National Health Laboratory Service; and §Department
of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Uni-
versity of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
The financial support was provided by UNICEF and the National Health Labora-
tory Service, Johannesburg, South Africa. The authors have no other funding
or conflicts of interest to disclose.
Address for correspondence: Gayle G. Sherman, MD, PhD, P.O. Box 79722,
Senderwood 2145, Johannesburg, South Africa. E-mail: gayle.sherman@
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal • Volume 32, Number 10, October 2013 Birth Diagnosis of HIV
© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins www.pidj.com | 1081
MATERIALS AND METHODS
A prospective, observational cohort study was conducted at
Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital (RMMCH) in Johan-
nesburg, South Africa. Women over 18 years of age who were
aware of their HIV positive status antenatally and planned to attend
the hospital for postnatal PMTCT care were eligible to participate.
Mother–infant pairs were recruited from August 2008 to July 2010
and follow-up continued until December 2010. The University of
the Witwatersrand’s Ethics Committee approved the study, and
written informed consent was obtained from mothers before enrol-
All mother–infant pairs enrolled in the study received the
routine PMTCT care available at RMMCH as per national guide-
lines at the time.6 Women with CD4 counts below 200 initiated
ART; those with higher CD4 counts received AZT from 28 weeks
gestation and sdNVP at the time of delivery.6 Infants received
sdNVP at birth and 7 days of AZT; 28 days was administered if a
mother had received less than 4 weeks of antenatal AZT.6 Exclu-
sive formula feeding was supported at the time. The 2010 PMTCT
guidelines, released toward the end of the study, stipulated ART
eligibility for HIV-infected women with CD4 counts below 350,
the administration of AZT from 14 weeks gestation and provision
of daily dose NVP to infants for 6 weeks;7 exclusive breast-feeding
was recommended.14 All HIV-exposed infants were to undergo HIV
DNA PCR testing on peripheral blood at 6 weeks of age (Ampli-
cor HIV-1 DNA PCR, version 1.5; Roche Molecular Systems Inc,
Branchburg, NJ).6,7 Results of the routine 6-week PCR test defined
the infants’ HIV status and were communicated to caregivers at
the 10-week immunization visit.17 PCR negative infants were dis-
charged from the program. PCR positive infants had a confirmatory
viral load and baseline CD4 test performed and were referred to
the treatment clinic to prepare for ART initiation.6,17 The treatment
and diagnostic services at RMMCH operate from the same facility
but run on different days. Viral suppression was achieved when an
infant’s viral load was less than 400 copies/mL.17
As part of the study, infants were seen at birth in the postna-
tal ward and at 2, 4, 6 and 10 weeks of age. A medical practitioner
examined the infants at each visit and collected and stored dried
blood spot (DBS) samples. These samples were tested using the
standard of care HIV DNA PCR and 2 newer assays (CAP/CTM
HIV-1 version 1, Roche Molecular Systems, Inc., Branchburg, NJ
and Aptima HIV-1 screening assay, Gen-Probe Inc., San Diego,
CA) to determine whether vertically infected infants could be iden-
tified before 6 weeks of age.12 Infants were classified as IU infected
where birth samples tested positive using 2 different assays. IP-
infected infants had negative results at birth but tested positive on
2 different assays by 6 weeks of age. HIV-infected infants access-
ing care at RMMCH were followed up until the end of the study.
Infants were considered to have remained in care if they attended
RMMCH in the last 9 months of the study.
Where an infant was lost to follow-up (LTFU) from
RMMCH before routine 6-week testing could be performed, the
National Health Laboratory Service’s Laboratory Information Sys-
tem was searched to determine whether the infant had accessed
PCR testing at another health facility. Where the surname and date
of birth matched, the PCR result on the Laboratory Information
System was used to assign an HIV status for the infant. At the end
of the study, all birth DBS samples from infants with an unknown
HIV status were tested to identify remaining IU-infected infants
in the cohort. All available 4-week study samples were also tested.
Statistical analyses were performed with Microsoft Excel
2010, Statistica 10 (StatSoft Inc., Tulsa, OK) and STATA 12.0
(StataCorp LP, College Station, TX). A chi-square test was used
to detect differences between categorical variables. Mann–Whitney
U test or Kruskal–Wallis analysis of variance were used to compare
2 or more continuous variables, respectively. P < 0.05 was con-
sidered significant. Where multiple comparisons between groups
were performed, a Bonferroni correction was applied to adjust the
Over a 2-year period, a convenience sample of 848 mother–
infant pairs was enrolled (Fig. 1). Ten withdrew during the course
of the study. Because the remaining 838 infants included 9 sets
of twins, a total of 829 HIV-infected women were enrolled. The
nationality of 804 of these women was known and 43% were
foreign, 86% of whom were from Zimbabwe. The infants in this
cohort have been previously described.12 Briefly, 606 (72%) of the
838 enrolled infants accessed diagnostic testing at RMMCH and 85
(10%) underwent testing at other facilities (Fig. 1). An HIV status
was established for an additional 19 infants who defaulted from the
study by HIV testing of DBS samples collected for study purposes.
An HIV status was therefore available for 85% (710) of enrolled
infants. IU infection was excluded in the remaining 128 default-
ing infants by virtue of negative birth DBS results, but no samples
were available to determine their HIV status at 6 weeks. In total, 38
HIV-infected infants were identified in the cohort, comprising 29
(76%) infants who tested positive at birth (IU infections) and 9 who
were negative at birth but positive by 6 weeks (IP infections) (Fig.
1). An additional 5 HIV-infected infants were later identified. Two
infants who were HIV-uninfected at 6 weeks of age later tested PCR
positive in the context of breast-feeding (postnatal transmission).
An additional 3 infants tested negative at birth, defaulted from the
study at 2 weeks of age and had positive PCR tests at 6 months or
older. Because it was unclear whether these infants were infected
IP or later as a result of breast-feeding, they were excluded from the
cohort of IP-infected infants.
All but 1 of the 838 enrolled infants (99.9%) received NVP
at birth (Fig. 2). Majority (92%) of these infants received sdNVP
according to the 2008 guidelines. Exclusive breast-feeding, only
recommended toward the end of the study,14 was reported in 89 (11%)
infants in the cohort. The 2 infants with postnatal transmissions
received sdNVP. Data regarding cotrimoxazole administration were
not collected. Of the 606 infants who accessed routine diagnostic
testing at RMMCH, 565 (93%) returned to receive their results
and 26 (4.3%) were HIV infected (Fig. 2). Of the infected infants
identified at RMMCH, 25 (96%) received PCR results and 23 (88%)
initiated ART. Two of the 3 infants who did not initiate treatment
were LTFU and 1 moved to his rural home before commencing
ART. The 23 infants who initiated ART were followed for a median
of 51.6 weeks (range 0.0–112.1 weeks). Ten (43%) of these infants
were not in care at the end of the study because 7 infants, 2 of
whom had achieved viral suppression on treatment, were LTFU
and 3 infants died shortly after initiating ART. Of the 13 infants in
care, 12 were virologically suppressed and 1 was in the process of
achieving suppression. Retention in care of HIV-infected infants
was reasonable until the first clinic visit for care, but decreased
dramatically between ART initiation (88%) and achieving viral
suppression. In addition to the 26 HIV-infected infants who were
diagnosed at RMMCH, 4 infected infants defaulted from the study
and were diagnosed elsewhere (Fig. 2). One of these 4 infants died
in hospital at 4.0 weeks of age, 1 returned to RMMCH for treatment
at 20.1 months of age and was in care at the end of the study and the
outcomes of the remaining 2 infants are unknown. Therefore, of the
30 infants who accessed a diagnosis through the PMTCT program,
14 were in care at the end of the study, having been followed up
for a median of 67.7 weeks, and a total of 4 (13%) infants died. An
additional 8 infected infants defaulted from the study and did not
Lilian et al The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal • Volume 32, Number 10, October 2013
1082 | www.pidj.com
© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
access routine testing at another facility (Fig. 2). All 8 infections
were IU transmissions and therefore detectable at birth. Two (25%)
of these 8 infants died at 5.0 and 13.1 weeks of age; the outcomes
of the remaining 6 are unknown.
Mothers of infants who were LTFU from the PMTCT pro-
gram differed significantly from mothers of infants who were diag-
nosed at RMMCH, in that fewer presented for antenatal care before
20 weeks gestation (P = 0.005), accessed antenatal CD4 testing
(P < 0.001) or received optimal antenatal PMTCT care from 28
weeks gestation (P = 0.006) (Table 1). The mothers of infants who
defaulted were younger (P = 0.002) and were less likely to be South
African (P < 0.001) (Table 1). Thus, infants born to younger, for-
eign mothers with poor antenatal health seeking behaviors were at
greatest risk of being LTFU from RMMCH’s PMTCT program.
These mothers accounted for 8 (67%) of the 12 infected infants
who were LTFU from RMMCH and all 8 infections were IU trans-
The timing of the implementation of the PMTCT program
among HIV-infected infants identified at RMMCH is depicted in
Figure 3. Infected infants presented for PCR testing and the result
visit at median ages of 6.6 and 10.6 weeks, respectively. HIV-
uninfected infants underwent testing at a comparable median age of
6.4 weeks (range 1.7–11 weeks) and received results at a median age
of 10.6 weeks (range 6.7–20.0 weeks). The 23 infants who initiated
ART did so at a median age of 16.0 weeks—a median delay of 10.1
weeks from the time of PCR testing and 6.1 weeks from receipt of
848 mother-infant pairs enrolled
tested at RMMCH
(18 IU + 8 IP)
at 6 weeks
tested at other facilities
(3 IU + 1 IP)
at 6 weeks
at 6 weeks *
did not test
at 4-6 weeks
at 6 weeks
HIV+, Human Immunodeficiency Virus positive; HIV-, Human Immunodeficiency Virus negative; IP, Intrapartum; IU, In Utero; RMMCH,
Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital
HIV status established by testing available dried blood spot samples collected for study purposes.
Tested negative at birth, defaulted from the study at 2 weeks of age and only had positive PCR tests at 6 months or older.
Status at 6 weeks of age unknown, but no IU-infection as dried blood spot samples collected at birth tested negative.
FIGURE 1. Determination of the HIV status of infants in the study cohort.
FIGURE 2. PMTCT care cascade for HIV-exposed infants born at RMMCH. The 565 infants who attended the result visit repre-
sent only 67% of the total 838 infants in the cohort. Compared with the total number of perinatally infected infants (n = 38),
68% were diagnosed at RMMCH, 61% initiated treatment and 34% remained in care. Assuming the 2 HIV-infected infants
with unknown outcomes that were diagnosed at other facilities did access treatment and remained in care, then a maximum
42% of infected infants would have been in care at the end of the study. Of the 14 infants remaining in care, 12 of those diag-
nosed at RMMCH were virologically suppressed and the other 2 infants were in the process of achieving suppression.
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal • Volume 32, Number 10, October 2013 Birth Diagnosis of HIV
© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins www.pidj.com | 1083
results (Fig. 3). Delays occurred when infants were referred from the
diagnostic clinic to the treatment clinic, with a median time interval
of 2.1 weeks from the result visit to first presentation for care. Once
infants had presented to the treatment clinic, a median of 2.5 weeks
lapsed before ART was initiated. By 12 weeks of age, only 4 infants
had initiated ART. Two symptomatic infants who were admitted to
hospital were fast-tracked onto treatment at 6.3 and 8.6 weeks of age
and were in care at the end of the study. The other 2 infants initiated
treatment at 9.4 and 10.9 weeks of age but died shortly thereafter.
Virological suppression occurred in 14 (54%) infected infants at a
median age of 36.5 weeks; a median of 18.4 weeks lapsed from the
time treatment was initiated to virological suppression (Fig. 3).
Eighty-two percent of HIV-exposed infants in this cohort
received an HIV status by virtue of routine testing at 6 weeks of
age. This EID coverage is equivalent to that reported for Gauteng
province, the region where RMMCH is located.18 It is therefore
likely that all HIV-infected and uninfected infants in the cohort
TABLE 1. Antenatal PMTCT Care and Maternal Characteristics by Method of Infant Diagnosis*
1. Mothers of Infants
2. Mothers of Infants
Diagnosed at Facilities Other
3. Mothers of Infants
Who Defaulted From the
(18.2–44.8; n = 602)
(0.00–5.72; n = 259)
(18.6–42.1; n = 82)
(0.00–5.48; n = 43)
(16.2–41.1; n = 145)
(4.38–5.59; n = 8)
Antenatal clinic visit
≤20 wk gestation
Accessed antenatal CD4
Accessed any antenatal
Antenatal PMTCT from
±28 wk gestation
Peripartum viral load (log)
*Data are n/total (%) for categorical variables and median (range; n) for continuous variables. The total number of mothers varies due to missing data.
†Overall comparison of all 3 groups. All significant results in the overall comparison were significantly different between groups 1 and 3.
‡Significant difference between groups 1 and 2.
§Significant difference between groups 2 and 3.
ART, Antiretroviral Therapy; PCR, Polymerase Chain Reaction
PCR result visit
First visit for care
PCR test to ART initiation: 10.1 (1.9 - 24.3)
PCR result visit to first visit for care: 2.1 (0.4 - 20.3)
PCR result visit to ART initiation: 6.1 (-3.3 - 20.3)
First visit for care to ART initiation: 2.5 (-7.9 - 12.0)
ART initiation to virological suppression: 18.4 (8.0 - 64.3)
Time intervals (weeks): median (range)
FIGURE 3. Median age at PCR testing, receipt of results and treatment for HIV-infected infants identified at RMMCH.
Lilian et al The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal • Volume 32, Number 10, October 2013
1084 | www.pidj.com
© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
who would have accessed routine testing were identified. Of the
38 perinatally HIV-infected infants, 30 (79%) were tested for
HIV infection at RMMCH or other facilities and 8 (21%) were
completely missed by the routine program. Although only 14 (37%)
infants were retained in care at a median of 68 weeks, all but 2 were
virologically suppressed. By the end of the study, 18 (47%) infected
infants were LTFU and 6 (16%) had died. The loss of HIV-infected
infants was maximal after ART initiation and further investigation
to understand the factors responsible is required.
The 8 HIV-infected infants who did not access routine test-
ing were all IU-infected and therefore diagnosable at birth. Two
(25%) of these infants were known to have died, almost double the
death rate of 13% among the 30 infants who accessed diagnostic
testing through the PMTCT program. The outcomes of the remain-
ing 6 defaulting infants are unknown. These infants represent criti-
cal missed opportunities for reducing infant mortality and measur-
ing perinatal transmission of HIV when monitoring for eMTCT.16
Maternal characteristics can identify infants at high risk of
loss from the PMTCT program. Young or foreign mothers, who pre-
sent late for antenatal care with no CD4 results, should alert health-
care workers, as their infants are at increased risk of not returning at
6 weeks for PCR testing. These findings concur with other studies
that report increased LTFU of infants born to mothers who present
late for antenatal care,19 as well as positive associations between PCR
testing uptake and older maternal age20,21 and maternal adherence to
PMTCT prophylaxis.21 Young women are perhaps less experienced
and less aware of the available antenatal facilities. Furthermore, for-
eign nationals tend to be a vulnerable group who may face difficul-
ties accessing antenatal care in South Africa, whether through lack
of knowledge, financial constraints, cultural differences, language
barriers or prejudice. Increased maternal counseling and support, as
well as proactive follow-up of these infants, are required. This is in
line with the call by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/
AIDS to invest extra efforts to improve coverage of maternal and
pediatric health services for vulnerable groups.4
Initiation of ART in HIV-infected infants at RMMCH only
occurred at a median age of 16.0 weeks. If the EID program could
be optimized by halving the time intervals from testing PCR posi-
tive to the result visit (4 weeks) and from the result visit to ART
initiation (6 weeks), then age at ART initiation could be reduced
to ±11 weeks. However, this is 4 weeks later than the median age
of ART initiation in the CHER study10 and is too late to ensure
that infected infants initiate treatment in time to impact the peak
of infant mortality at 8–12 weeks of age3 or the 20% of perina-
tally infected infants who demise by 13 weeks (3 months) of age.2
Reducing early infant mortality related to HIV requires earlier ART
initiation,10 which requires an earlier diagnosis.
Due to the fragmentation of the South African healthcare
system and incomplete or misplaced patient-held maternal and
infant health records, it is not always possible to identify HIV-
exposed infants for PCR testing at the 6-week immunization visit.
HIV-exposed infants should be easier to identify at birth, as all
HIV-infected mothers should be identified in maternity wards to
receive peripartum PMTCT prophylaxis.6,7 In South Africa, major-
ity (89%) of women deliver in healthcare facilities22; therefore, a
birth PCR should achieve higher EID coverage than the 6-week test.
Performing PCR testing at birth would identify ±75% of perinatally
HIV-infected infants12,13 early enough for ART to impact on early
mortality, ensure identification of those infected infants who are
lost by 6 weeks with the current program and provide more accu-
rate monitoring of transmission for eMTCT.16 HIV-infected infants
identified by birth testing could be traced and linked to care should
they subsequently be LTFU from the PMTCT program. If IU infec-
tion is associated with rapid progression and increased morbidity
and mortality,1,23 then a birth PCR would identify the infants at
highest risk of early mortality for ART initiation. However, birth
testing would not identify infants infected IP or postnatally and a
second PCR test for infants who test negative at birth would be
required. Diagnosis of infected infants receiving multidrug or
extended prophylaxis may be delayed beyond 4–6 weeks24–26 and
6-week testing may therefore be too early to detect all IP-infected
infants. Optimally timed additional tests after birth will be required
to ensure detection of all vertically infected infants. Algorithms
may differ depending on resource constraints, but rapid HIV tests
to exclude HIV infection in exposed infants should be considered
to reduce the cost of PCR testing and the number of clinic visits
required.27,28 Because South African guidelines already recommend
2 PCR tests for HIV-exposed infants, at 6 weeks and after cessation
of breast-feeding,6,7 birth testing together with a second PCR test to
detect IP infections and rapid testing to exclude postnatal infections
may be feasible.
There are a number of limitations to this study. It was a sin-
gle center, hospital-based study with a high proportion of foreign
nationals and may therefore not be representative of outcomes in
the country or even the hospital, as only those patients who planned
to return to RMMCH for postnatal care were eligible for enrol-
ment. Importantly, enrolled mothers were aware of their status
antenatally; because these mothers are more likely to return for
follow-up than women first diagnosed as HIV-infected at delivery,29
follow-up rates may be favorably skewed. Losses to follow-up may
be higher in other settings where antenatal, delivery and EID ser-
vices occur at different sites. Additionally, an HIV status could not
be determined for 15% of enrolled infants. Although efforts were
made to identify infants who accessed EID at other facilities by
searching the national Laboratory Information System, it is pos-
sible that additional IP-infected infants were missed. ART coverage
for infected infants may be higher than reported, as some defaulting
infants may have accessed ART elsewhere.
Ongoing evaluation of management strategies, including
EID practices, is required to optimize outcomes in an evolving HIV
epidemic. In order to identify all perinatally HIV-infected infants
for ART in time to reduce early infant mortality, EID testing should
commence at birth. Birth testing will also enable more accurate
monitoring of eMTCT. However, additional testing later in infancy
and lack of retention in care, particularly after ART initiation, will
need to be addressed to reduce HIV-related infant mortality.
The authors acknowledge the financial support provided by
UNICEF and the National Health Laboratory Service, Johannes-
burg, South Africa. The opinions expressed herein do not necessar-
ily reflect those of the funders. The authors thank all infants and
their caregivers for participating in this study, the study team, in
particular Nkele Selepe and Mavis Zulu for their dedication and
Prof. Elena Libhaber for statistical guidance.
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of mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 and infant mortality in the first 6
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2. Marston M, Becquet R, Zaba B, et al. Net survival of perinatally and postna-
tally HIV-infected children: a pooled analysis of individual data from sub-
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