Mortality in HIV-seropositive versus -seronegative persons in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy: Implications for when to initiate therapy

Cunlin Wang, David Vlahov, Noya Galai, Joseph Bareta, Steffanie A. Strathhdee, Kenrad E. Nelson, Timothy R. Sterling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. The optimal time to initiate highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) remains unclear. Methods. Five hundred eighty-three human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-seropositive and 920 HIV-seronegative injection drug users (IDUs) were followed from 1997 to 2000. HIV-seropositive participants were categorized according to receipt of HAART (either initiated or switched to HAART) and initial CD4 cell count. Survival analysis that included delayed-entry and Cox proportional-hazards models was used to evaluate the effect of HAART, with adjustments for factors associated with access to HAART. Results. Compared with HIV-seronegative participants, overall survival was similar in HIV-seropositive participants who received HAART at >350 CD4 cells/μL, but mortality was higher both in participants with >350 CD4 cells/μL who did not receive HAART and in participants who received HAART at 200-350 CD4 cells/μL (mortality rates, 19.9, 24.0, 43.0, and 50.5/1000 person-years, respectively). In proportional-hazards models in which HIV-seronegative participants were the reference group and in which age, sex, race, frequency of drug use, substance-abuse treatment, and health-care utilization were adjusted for, hazard ratios were 1.01 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.41-2.45), 2.28 (95% CI, 1.38-3.78), and 2.09 (95% CI, 1.07-4.10) for the latter 3 groups. In HIV-seropositive participants, HAART significantly improved survival when initiated at CD4 cell counts <200 cells/μL. Conclusions. Survival of HIV-seropositive participants receiving HAART approximated that of HIV-seronegative participants only when therapy was given at CD4 cell counts >350 cells/μL. These data, restricted to IDUs, suggest initiating or switching to HAART at higher CD4 cell levels than are currently recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1046-1054
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received 15 December 2003; accepted 15 March 2004; electronically published 17 August 2004. Financial support: National Institute on Drug Abuse (grants DA04334 and DA12568); Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health (grant 2 D 43TW000010-AITRP-Johns Hopkins University to C.W.). aPresent affiliation: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee. Reprints or correspondence: Dr. David Vlahov, New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10029 ([email protected]).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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