Aim: To examine the effect on growth and immunity of enhanced calorie and protein provision to HIV-infected children presenting with prolonged diarrhoea.
Methods: A total of 169 HIV-infected children aged 6–36 months with diarrhoea for 7 days or more were randomly assigned to either standard nutrition support for children with prolonged diarrhoea or an enhanced diet started during hospitalisation and continued after discharge. The change in weight between enrolment and 8, 14 and 26 weeks and changes in plasma HIV-RNA and CD4 cell count at 8 and 26 weeks were estimated.
Results: Children receiving enhanced nutrition achieved significantly more weight gain (p < 0.001) between enrolment and 8 weeks than children on the standard diet (median increase in weight-for-age standard deviation score +1.02 vs. +0.01). After 8 weeks median weight velocity was normal and similar in both groups. The change in median CD4 count was similar in both groups. The 26-week mortality rate was high in both groups (standard support: 22%, enhanced support: 29%).
Conclusions: Nutrition support of children with advanced HIV infection and prolonged diarrhoea resulted in significant and sustained weight gain, but did not improve CD4 counts or survival. These results support integrated nutrition interventions for HIV-infected children.