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Measuring child awareness for adult symptomatic HIV using a verbal assessment tool: concordance between adult–child dyads on adult HIV-associated symptoms and illnesses
  1. Elisabeth Becker1,
  2. Caroline Kuo2,3,
  3. Don Operario2,
  4. Mosa Moshabela4,
  5. Lucie Cluver3,5,6
  1. 1Division of Community, Family Health and Equity, Rhode Island Department of Health, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  2. 2Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, School of Public Health, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  3. 3Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  4. 4Department of Rural Health, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
  5. 5Department of Social Policy and Intervention, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  6. 6Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Elisabeth Becker, Division of Community, Family Health and Equity, Rhode Island Department of Health, 3 Capitol Hill, Providence, Rhode Island 02908, USA, elisabethrbecker{at}


Objectives This study assessed children's awareness for adult HIV-associated symptoms and illnesses using a verbal assessment tool by analysing inter-rater reliability between adult–child dyads. This study also evaluated sociodemographic and household characteristics associated with child awareness of adult symptomatic HIV.

Methods A cross-sectional survey using a representative community sample of adult–child dyads (N=2477 dyads) was conducted in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Analyses focused on a subsample (n=673 adult–child dyads) who completed verbal assessment interviews for symptomatic HIV. We used an existing validated verbal autopsy approach, originally designed to determine AIDS-related deaths by adult proxy reporters. We adapted this approach for use by child proxy reporters for reporting on HIV-associated symptoms and illnesses among living adults. Analyses assessed whether children could reliably report on adult HIV-associated symptoms and illnesses and adult provisional HIV status.

Results Adult–child pairs concurred above the 65th percentile for 9 of the 10 HIV-associated symptoms and illnesses with sensitivities ranging from 10% to 100% and specificities ranging from 20% to 100%. Concordant reporting between adult–child dyads for the adult's provisional HIV status was 72% (sensitivity=68%, specificity=73%). Children were more likely to reliably match adult's reports of provisional HIV status when they lived in households with more household members, and households with more robust socioeconomic indicators including access to potable water, food security and television.

Conclusions Children demonstrate awareness of HIV-associated symptoms and illnesses experienced by adults in their household. Children in households with greater socioeconomic resources and more household members were more likely to reliably report on the adult's provisional HIV status.

  • HIV

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