Australian Commentary on the US DHHS Guidelines for the use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV infection

US DHHS Guidelines with Australian Commentary

What's New in the Pediatric ARV Guidelines

DHHS Last Updated: April 2023Australian Commentary Last Updated: July 2023

The HHS Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy and Medical Management of Children Living with HIV (the Panel) has reviewed and updated the text and references of previous versions of the Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection published on April 11, 2022, and October 11, 2022. The Australian HIV Paediatrics Guidelines Committee reviewed these updates and provided updated Australian commentary in July 2023. Key updates are summarized below.

April 2023

When to Initiate Therapy

Clinical and Laboratory Monitoring of Pediatric HIV Infection

  • The section now describes several methods to obtain regular weight and height measurements in addition to HIV clinic visits. Cooperative children can be weighed and height measured at home if a scale and measuring tape are available, with simple instructions for continuity, or directly observed during a synchronous visit or obtained from recent pediatric or other specialty in-office visit.
  • Table 5. CD4 Cell Counts and Percentages in Healthy Children: Distribution by Age has been added to the section.
  • Table 6. Sample Schedule for Clinical and Laboratory Monitoring of Children Before and After Initiation of Antiretroviral Therapy has been updated.
  • Initial laboratory screening for infants and children now includes HLA-B*5701 testing to allow for possible abacavir initiation. An alternative ARV drug should be used if the HLA-‍B*5701 test result is positive.
  • The Panel has added guidance about viral load monitoring for adolescents initiating long-acting cabotegravir and rilpivirine (LA-CAB and RPV).
  • To address issues related to biologic variability in HIV RNA (viral load), the Panel has added clarification of clinically significant plasma viral load changes in infants aged <2 years (>0.7 log10 copies/mL, a fivefold difference) and in children aged ≥2 years (>0.5 log10 copies/mL, a threefold difference).

Regimens Not Recommended for Use in Antiretroviral-Naive Children

  • Content regarding some drugs that are not recommended for initial therapy has been reorganized.

Special Considerations for Antiretroviral Therapy Use in Adolescents with HIV

  • The Panel noted that LA-CAB and RPV could be considered to improve or support ART adherence in adolescents aged ≥12 years and weighing ≥35 kg who are virally suppressed and also noted that data about the use of LA-CAB and RPV in those with adherence concerns are still emerging.
  • Based on recent data about a higher prevalence of attempted suicide in adolescents with HIV compared to HIV-exposed but uninfected adolescents, providers who are caring for adolescents with HIV should incorporate screening for suicidality into other mental health and psychiatric screenings, referring patients to age-appropriate services as needed.

Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy in Children and Adolescents with HIV

  • The Panel points out that the growing use of telemedicine visits, which allow remote and often face-to-face contact, provides new opportunities to support families and visualize ART handling and swallowing, as well as to conduct directly observed therapy in the home setting.
  • Table 16. Strategies to Improve Adherence to Antiretroviral Medications has been updated to address monitoring adherence, specific barriers to adherence, and strategies that may help to improve adherence, such as participation in camp programs and referrals to counseling and mental health programs.

Management of Medication Toxicity or Intolerance

  • Tables for Antiretroviral Therapy–Associated Adverse Effects and Management Recommendations have been reviewed with updates regarding associated ARVs, onset and clinical manifestations, estimated frequency, risk factors, prevention and monitoring, and management where indicated.

Management of Children Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy

January 31, 2023

Maternal HIV Testing and Identification of Perinatal HIV Exposure

This section was revised for clarification and to provide explanatory content about HIV testing, including expedited HIV tests, during pregnancy and postpartum. Subsections were added on approved HIV tests and testing algorithms and false positive HIV tests.

Diagnosis of HIV Infection in Infants and Children

This section now provides additional guidance about HIV diagnostic testing for infants with perinatal HIV exposure who are being breastfed, with time points for testing listed in Table 3. Recommended Virologic Testing Schedules for Infants Who Were Exposed to HIV According to Risk of Perinatal HIV Acquisition at and After Birth.

A subsection was added with information about HIV testing for infants who were being breastfed at the time of maternal HIV diagnosis.

Antiretroviral Management of Newborns with Perinatal HIV Exposure or HIV Infection

When the criteria for low risk of perinatal HIV transmission are met, the Panel now recommends that infants receive 2 weeks of zidovudine (ZDV) prophylaxis (BII), rather than 4 weeks (see Table 12. Neonatal Antiretroviral Management According to Risk of HIV Infection in the Newborn).

  • The criterion for viral suppression was further defined as at least two consecutive tests with HIV RNA levels <50 copies/mL obtained at least 4 weeks apart.

Infants born to individuals who do not meet criteria for low risk for perinatal HIV transmission but who have a viral load <50 copies/mL at or after 36 weeks should receive ZDV for 4 to 6 weeks (BII).

The Panel clarified the duration of ARVs for newborns at high risk of perinatal acquisition. Presumptive HIV therapy with three-drug regimens should be administered from birth for 2 to 6 weeks (see Tables 12 and 13); if the duration of the three-drug regimen is shorter than 6 weeks, ZDV should be continued alone to complete a total of 6 weeks of prophylaxis.

All premature infants <37 weeks gestation who are not at high risk of perinatal acquisition of HIV should receive ZDV for 4 to 6 weeks (BII).

New subsections and Table 14. Infant Antiretroviral Prophylaxis for Newborns of Mothers with Sustained Viral Suppression Who Breastfeed were added to address ARV prophylaxis for newborns at low risk of perinatal HIV transmission who are breastfed and to provide information about breastfeeding in newborns at high risk of perinatal HIV acquisition.

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