Improved caregiver training helps HIV-infected children

Children born with HIV can live longer and richer lives if their caregivers receive training in ways to enhance the children's development, according to research led by Michigan State University.

The program also reduces depression in the caregivers which, in most cases, are the children's HIV-infected mothers, MSU researcher Michael Boivin and colleagues report in The Journal of Pediatrics.

An HIV diagnosis once all but guaranteed an African child would die within a few years, but more effective and widely available drugs have made it commonplace for children there to live with the disease into or beyond adolescence.

Still, with gravely ill caregivers – many of whom must also work long hours in the fields to provide food – these kids miss out on the and regular interaction that are crucial for their physical, social and cognitive development in early childhood, said Boivin, professor in the departments of Psychiatry and of Neurology and Ophthalmology.

"Better access to treatment has clinically stabilized these children and extended their lives, but their quality of life is still very much at risk," Boivin said. "The effects of the disease on their development and the compromised caregiving available to them compound the public health challenges already faced by African children in resource-poor settings."

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study involved a training program called Mediational Intervention for Sensitizing Caregivers, or MISC, which uses day-to-day interaction at home to enhance children's social skills, language and cognitive ability.

"MISC is about training mothers or other caregivers on ways they can be sensitive to their child's natural tendencies to learn, and to direct those tendencies in to enrich the child's development," said Boivin.

The study involved 120 preschool-aged children with HIV living in rural Uganda. Their primary caregivers were randomly assigned to receive childcare training through MISC or through an education program focused on improving children's health and nutrition.

After a year, the children whose caregivers received the MISC training showed significantly more developmental progress than the others, with particularly strong gains in memory and learning skills.

Somewhat surprisingly, there were significantly fewer deaths from diseases that take advantage of the patient's compromised immune system in the MISC group than among other children, suggesting the training may help pediatric HIV patients live longer.

Boivin said it could be that MISC-trained "became more attuned to their children's health needs and were more likely to seek medical help in a timely manner when the children are fighting an opportunistic illness."

Caregivers in the MISC group also were significantly less depressed six months into the study than those in the other group, perhaps because of the social support they received during MISC training.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Training gives kids of AIDS patients a leg up

Apr 10, 2013

A simple in-home training program for caregivers can give children of AIDS patients a better shot at prosperity by improving their early-childhood development, according to a study led by a Michigan State ...

Take your child's word for it on asthma, study finds

Aug 02, 2013

Children's perceptions of living with asthma may differ significantly from their caregivers' perceptions, which means both should be interviewed when they visit the doctor's office, a new study from UT Kids San Antonio and ...

New parenting program benefits ADHD children

May 24, 2013

A new program for treating the emotional health of mothers of children with ADHD has shown significant benefits for the children themselves, finds a new study by University of Maryland researchers. The program combines treatment ...

Recommended for you

Helping babies survive

Nov 21, 2014

A healthy baby is born in the Haydom Lutheran Hospital in Tanzania. She is given the name Precious and her proud mother is ready to take her back to the village. Many children born in the same hospital, or ...

Unstable child care can affect children by age four

Nov 20, 2014

A new study from UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) reveals that disruptions in child care negatively affect children's social development as early as age 4. However, the study also ...

Parental involvement still essential in secondary school

Nov 20, 2014

Although students become more independent as they rise through grade levels and parent-teacher interactions typically lessen as students age, parental involvement in a child's education during the secondary ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.