THURSDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- School-age children
exposed to HIV before birth are at increased risk for language
problems and could benefit from early diagnosis and classroom
intervention, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at 468 children, ages 7 to 16, born to
mothers with HIV infection during pregnancy. Of those children, 306
were HIV-infected and 162 did not have HIV, the virus that causes
Overall, 35 percent of the children had difficulty understanding
spoken words and expressing themselves verbally, said the
researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and other
On a series of language ability tests, the average score of the
children exposed to HIV before birth was in the lowest 21 percent
of all children who have taken the test.
All the children exposed to HIV before birth tended to have
language delays, regardless of whether they later become infected
with HIV, the researchers said.
"Our results show that children exposed to HIV have more than twice the chance of having a language impairment than do children in the general population," Dr. George Siberry, of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in an NIH news release.
The researchers weren't able to determine if the high rates of
language problems in HIV-exposed children are actually due to HIV
exposure or are caused by other factors, such as family status,
mothers' substance use, environment, or social or economic
The study recently appeared in the
Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Routine screening for language impairment might benefit children
exposed to HIV before birth, even if they don't have any obvious
signs of language problems, the researchers suggested.
The U.S. National Dissemination Center for Children with
Disabilities has more about
speech and language impairments.