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Learning disabilities in HIV+ children
Oct 15, 2006

My HIV+ adopted 9 year old is having learning issues that are a puzzle even to the educators at his school. His IQ is very low normal and his progress in school is even slower than his IQ would indicate. His memory is so poor that he still cannot remember the names of his letters much less the sounds they make. It is incredibly frustating to him and he is becoming more and more angry at everyone. His IQ has actually dropped over the last few years. His viral load has been undetectable for 7 years and his CD4 is normal. Could these issues still be related to the HIV? He is taking Kaletra, Viramune and Zerit. I have read that in adults that the virus can still attack the brain even though labs are showing it is being well managed. Could this be what is happening? Any suggestions? His PCP, an HIV expert, just dismisses it to "a lot of these kids have learning problems". It is hard to see him so angry and frustated with everyone and everything. He keeps asking...when will I learn to read?

Response from Dr. Luzuriaga

HIV can affect the central nervous system in children and adults. With an undetectable viral load on medication (and in the absence of any other neurological findings), however, it seems unlikely that your son's learning disabilities are due only to HIV. It sounds as if your son has undergone some evaluations, but it would be important for him to have a comprehensive set of testing and evaluations (also known as a "CORE" evaluation) at school. Over the course of these evaluations, your pediatrician will be asked to provide a full medical evaluation. If significant disabilities are found, a comprehensive educational plan would be made to address the issues. Since this process can take some time, I would urge you to initiate this with your school as soon as possible.


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