An Interview with Paige Williams

Paige Williams, Senior Lecturer on Biostatistics, was recently interviewed for the School’s “The Big 3” series to discuss her upcoming article on the health and development of children whose HIV-infected mothers took antiretroviral (ARV) drugs during pregnancy.

In a study Paige published last year, she found that the overall risk of birth defects was low for women taking ARVs during early pregnancy — in keeping with previous research that has found ARV use in pregnancy to be generally safe. 

Her current study focuses on health and developmental problems that might emerge later in life, such as cognitive, hearing, and language impairments, and metabolic problems. Her study found that taking combination antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy does not increase the overall risk of these adverse outcomes in babies born to mothers living with HIV.

However, one commonly used drug called zidovudine (or AZT) was linked to about 70% higher risk for metabolic problems in these children. This was not anticipated, since this drug has not previously been linked to metabolic problems. In contrast, many drugs in the class of ARVs known as protease inhibitors were linked to lower risk of metabolic problems in this study, even though this drug class has often been linked to higher risk of issues such as elevated cholesterol.

Read more about her other findings, the significance of this research, and her next steps here.