Communication Characteristics of the Pediatric HIV and AIDS Population in a Regional Hospital in Gauteng

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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) has been shown to have significant effects on the development of a child. Currently there is limited South African research regarding HIV and specific characteristics of communication development, and the treatment thereof, in the child infected with HIV. The objective of the research was to describe the communication characteristics of a group of children between the ages of 0 – 5 years infected with HIV at a hospital in Gauteng, South Africa. Clinic records of 203 children infected with HIV between the ages of 0-5 years were reviewed by using a pre-designed checklist within the outreach clinic of a large regional hospital. A questionnaire was completed by 4 medical practitioners working with this population within the outreach clinic. A total of 91.62% of the infected children were diagnosed as being either in Stage III or IV of the disease (according to the WHO classification system of 2005), with all infants presenting with a CD4 count of ≤ 60. The majority (75.37% of the total sample) were receiving HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) at the time the data was collected. According to their medical, social, communication and general development, almost all the children qualified for Early Communication Intervention (ECI) but were not recorded as being referred for such services. A large proportion of the target population presented with opportunistic infections and/or HIV associated conditions. The results highlight the developmental characteristics of children living with HIV, and identify the need for medical doctors and allied health professionals to be provided with relevant literature or training regarding the communication development of children infected with HIV. This will facilitate appropriate referrals for ECI services.