Clinico-Immunological Status and Neurocognitive Function of Perinatally Acquired HIV-Positive Children on cART: A Cross-Sectional Correlational Study in South Africa

Antonio G. Lentoor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the undisputed benefits of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), perinatally acquired human immunodeficiency virus (PHIV) children on treatment often present with a spectrum of neurological deficits known as HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment. Even higher CD4 cell count does not seem to prevent the development of neurocognitive impairment in children with PHIV. While CD4 cell count has shown to have the greatest prognostic value, its association with neurocognitive abilities remains to be clarified. This study aimed at determining the correlation between plasma CD4+ lymphocyte and neurocognitive function in children with PHIV on cART. In total, 152 purposively recruited hospital-based sample of children with PHIV on cART, aged 3 years to 7 years 6 months (mean age, 63.13 months), underwent neurocognitive assessment using the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Third Edition. Immunological status of each child was based on the plasma CD4+ lymphocyte levels. The mean CD4+ lymphocyte cell count at the time of neurocognitive assessment was 1,259.85 cells/mm3 (mean range, 139–2,717 cells/mm3), with significant age difference on CD4+ lymphocyte count levels [F(2, 149) = 13.58, p = 0.000]. CD4+ lymphocyte counts was significantly correlated with subdomains of neurocognitive function scores of task that measures working memory, processing speed, and perceptual reasoning. Global cognitive ability (Full Scale Intellectual Quotient) had no significant association with immunological status of the children. The findings support an association between immunological status of PHIV infection and executive function task. These neurocognitive faculties are critical for learning, school readiness and success in early childhood, and ultimately treatment adherence in adolescence. The need for early identification of neurodevelopment deficits in children, even when on cART, is crucial because early psychosocial and neurorehabilitative interventions can lead to better outcome for children with PHIV.

Original languageEnglish
Article number243
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2020


  • combination antiretroviral therapy (cART)
  • immunological status
  • neurocognitive assessment
  • neurocognitive deficits
  • neurological deficits
  • perinatally acquired HIV (PHIV)
  • plasma CD4 lymphocyte count


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