Researchers have concluded that children born with HIV lived longer and richer lives if their caregivers were trained to enhance their development. Formerly, African children with HIV infection died in a few years. Advances with antiretroviral therapy allow them to live longer, but with a poor quality of life. Michael Boivin, professor in the departments of Psychiatry and of Neurology and Ophthalmology at Michigan State University, and colleagues conducted a one-year study with 120 preschool-aged HIV-infected children living in rural Uganda and their caregivers.
Primary caregivers, many of whom were HIV-infected mothers, were exposed randomly either to a childcare training program called Mediational Intervention for Sensitizing Caregivers (MISC) or an education program for improving children's health and nutrition. MISC used daily interactions at home to improve children's social skills, language, and cognitive ability. After the year, children of MISC-trained caregivers exhibited significantly greater developmental progress than the other children, including better memory and learning skills.
Fewer children of MISC-trained caregivers died of the opportunistic diseases that normally infect persons with a compromised immune system, compared to children in the other group. Boivin suggested that MISC-trained caregivers might have become more aware of the children's health needs and sought medical help in time to fight off illness. As a side effect, MISC-trained caregivers were significantly less depressed than the other group, after six months of the study. This might have been a result of the social support they received during MISC training.
The National Institutes of Health funded the study.
The full report, "A Year-Long Caregiver Training Program Improves Cognition in Preschool Ugandan Children with Human Immunodeficiency Virus," was published online in the Journal of Pediatrics (2013; doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.06.055).