According to research funded by the National Institutes of Health, current anti-HIV treatment may protect against puberty delays that were seen in HIV-infected children taking older regimens.

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Among children born before 1990, >10% of HIV-positive children had not entered puberty by 12–13 years of age. However, for children born since 1997, a study published in AIDS found that puberty was delayed for <1% of children with the emergence of more effective anti-HIV drug therapies. The standard therapy now consists of combination antiretroviral treatments: >3 drugs from >2 different antiretroviral drug classes.

Researchers found that for each year of combination antiretroviral treatment a child received, puberty started about a month earlier when compared to children with HIV who took other drug therapies or no drugs at all. Researchers had analyzed data from >2,000 boys and girls with HIV and from an additional 500 boys and girls exposed to HIV before and during birth but who did not become HIV-infected.

During the children’s study visit, clinicians assessed the beginning of puberty by noting typical physical changes that occur in adolescence, such as the appearance of pubic hair and the development of breast tissue or genitals. It was also confirmed that the children with the most severe symptoms of HIV infection tended to have the greatest delays in puberty.

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