As part of a survey of the causes of perinatal mortality at Mpilo Maternity Hospital, 220 neonatal deaths and the mothers of 221 stillbirths were tested for HIV-1 antibodies. The HIV positive rate in neonatal deaths was 23.6% (95% confidence interval (CI) 18.0 to 29.2%), significantly higher than 15.4% (95% CI 10.6 to 20.1%) in stillbirths. Perinatal deaths from congenital malformations, birth asphyxia, pregnancy induced hypertension, placental abruption, and oFther non-infectious causes had similar low HIV positive rates averaging 8.1% (95% CI 3.9 to 12.3%). Deaths from septicaemia had a significantly greater rate of 39.3% (95% CI 27.0 to 51.6%) and the highest rate of 72.2% (95% CI 51.5 to 92.9%) was found in deaths from congenital infection other than syphilis, indicating that maternal HIV infection predisposes to neonatal septicaemia and congenital infection. Unexplained stillbirths also had a significantly greater rate of 22.4% (95% CI 10.7 to 34.1%), presumably because some died from unrecognised infection. The rate in deaths from congenital syphilis was 17.4% (95% CI 9.6 to 25.2%), indicating a significant but weak association between these two sexually transmitted diseases in Bulawayo. The rate in deaths from hyaline membrane disease was not significantly greater at 15.0% (95% CI 6.0 to 24.0%). By predisposing to infection, maternal HIV infection was estimated to increase the stillbirth rate by 1.6 times and the neonatal mortality rate by 2.7 times. It predisposed equally to early and late onset neonatal septicaemia, but more to infection from streptococci and staphylococci than from Gram negative enterobacteria. HIV positive deaths from congenital infection had respiratory distress and usually intrauterine growth retardation, hepatosplenomegaly, and congenital pneumonia on lung histology.
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