A prevalence study of antibody to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was conducted in Kinshasa, Zaïre, among 258 children 2-24 months old who were in hospital, 191 children 1-20 months old who were attending a well-child clinic, and their mothers. 8 % of the mothers of both groups of children were seropositive. Among children under 9 months old, 12 of 102 (12%) hospital inpatients and 11 of 136 (8%) clinic attenders were seropositive, while in the 9-24-month age group 20 of 156 (13%) hospital children and only 1 of 55 (2%) clinic children were seropositive (Fisher's exact test, p = 0.01). 61 % of the seropositive children had seropositive mothers, indicating a high rate of vertical transmission. Factors associated with seropositivity among hospital children with seronegative mothers included male sex, increased lifetime number of medical injections, and previous blood transfusion or hospital admission. Among children who had not previously been transfused or admitted to hospital the seropositives had received more medical injections than the seronegatives (median 34.5 versus 14.5; Wilcoxon rank sum test, p = 0.006). HIV infection accounted for or complicated a substantial proportion of hospital paediatric admissions. Public health measures are urgently required to prevent parenteral and vertical transmission of HIV to infants and young children in Kinshasa.
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