Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which damages or kills the cells that are responsible for fighting infection. AIDS is diagnosed when HIV has weakened the immune system enough that the body has a difficult time fighting infections. Through 2005, an estimated 9,068 AIDS cases in children younger than 13 had ever been reported in the United States. Pediatric AIDS cases represent less than one percent of all AIDS cases ever reported.
In 2005, an estimated 68 new AIDS cases were diagnosed among children under age 13, nearly all of which were attributed to transmission from the mother before or during birth (perinatal transmission), excluding one case in which the risk factor was not specified. The number of new cases of pediatric AIDS has declined substantially since 1992, when an estimated 894 new cases were reported. A major factor in this decline is the increasing use of antiretroviral therapy before, during, and after pregnancy to reduce perinatal transmission of HIV. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new and updated materials in 2004 to further promote universal prenatal HIV testing. It is expected that the perinatal transmission rate will continue to decline with increased use of treatments and obstetric procedures.
Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented among pediatric AIDS cases. Non-Hispanic Black children account for nearly 62 percent of all pediatric AIDS cases, but compose approximately 15 percent of the total U.S. population under age 13.