Background HIV infection in children is now considered as a chronic condition, in which various non-infectious complications may occur, including those affecting the developing cardiovascular system. As children are expected to survive well into adulthood, understanding childhood as well as potential future cardiovascular complications is of major importance. Methods and results We reviewed published literature on childhood cardiac manifestations and longer term effects of pediatric HIV infection on the cardiovascular system. Evidence gaps that should be prioritized in research are highlighted. Through poorly understood mechanisms, HIV infection may cause various cardiac complications already manifesting in childhood, such as structural and functional myocardial derangements, pulmonary hypertension, pericardial effusion and possibly endocarditis. Evidence indicates that HIV infection in children also has unfavorable effects on the vasculature and cardiovascular biomarkers, such as increased intima-media thickness and decreased flow-mediated dilation, a marker of endothelial function. However, studies are small and predominantly include antiretroviral therapy-treated children, so that it is difficult to differentiate between effects of HIV infection per se and antiretroviral therapy treatment, reported in adults to have cardiovascular side effects. Conclusions HIV infection in children may greatly impact the cardiovascular system, including effects on the heart, which tend to manifest early in childhood, and on the vasculature. The underlying mechanisms, essential for targeted prevention, are poorly understood. Current evidence largely stems from research in adults. However, as modes of infection, immune maturity, growth and development, and treatment are markedly different in children, specific pediatric research, accounting for the complex interplay of normal growth and development, HIV infection and treatment, is clearly warranted.
- Human immunodeficiency virus