The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), first described in adult male homosexuals in the USA in 1981, is one manifestation of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV infection produces a wide range of clinical manifestations from asymptomatic infection to marked immunodeficiency. The four recognized routes of virus transmission are sexual contact with an HIV-infected individual; receipt of HIV-infected blood or blood products; parenteral exposure to HIV-contaminated equipment, and vertical transmission from an HIV-infected pregnant woman. The HIV pandemic has had a formidable impact on global maternal and child health and survival, with important public health consequences. As of December 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there are over 16 million women and 1.4 million children with HIV/AIDS worldwide. In the USA, over 400,000 cases of AIDS had been reported by June 2000. HIV-1 infection has become one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in children worldwide. In the USA, HIV infection was the seventh leading cause of death in children 1–4 years of age in 1996. The most common AIDS-defining conditions in children are listed in Table 18.1.
Descriptions of cases of AIDS in children began in 1982; almost 9000 cases of AIDS in individuals under 13 years of age had been reported in the USA by June 2000. Children under 13 years of age account for 1.2% of the total AIDS cases reported in the USA.