Temporal trends in highly active antiretroviral therapy initiation among injection drug users in Baltimore, Maryland, 1996-2008

Shruti H. Mehta, Gregory D. Kirk, Jacquie Astemborski, Noya Galai, David D. Celentano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. We characterized temporal trends in highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) initiation (1996-2008) among treatment-eligible persons in a community-based cohort of current and former injection drug users (IDUs) in Baltimore, Maryland. Methods. The AIDS Linked to the Intra Venous Experience (ALIVE) cohort has been observing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive IDUs since 1988. HAART eligibility was defined as the first visit after 1 January 1996 at which the patient's CD4+ cell count was <350 cells/μL. Temporal trends and predictors of HAART initiation were examined using x2 tests for trend and lognormal survival models. Results. The median age of 582 HAART-eligible IDUs was 41 years; 75% of the subjects were male, 97% were African American, and 60% were active IDUs. Of these 582 individuals, 345 initiated HAART over 1803 personyears (19.2 subjects per 100 person-years; 95% confidence interval, 17.2-21.3 subjects per 100 person-years); there was no statistically significant temporal trend in HAART initiation. Independent predictors of delayed initiation included heavy injection drug use; having a prior AIDS diagnosis, having a lower CD4 + cell count, having a usual source of care, and having health insurance were predictors of more-rapid initiation. The delay between eligibility and initiation decreased among those who became eligible most recently (2003-2007), compared with those in earlier periods (1996-2002); however, a substantial number of patients who became eligible in recent years either initiated HAART after a substantial delay or did not initiate HAART at all. Conclusions. We failed to observe substantial improvement in HAART initiation among current and former IDUs over a 12-year period; heavy use of injection drugs remains the major barrier to HAART initiation and to consistent HIV care. The fact that many IDUs initiate HAART after a significant delay or do not initiate it at all raises concern that disparities in HIV care for IDUs remain at a time of simplified antiretroviral regimens and increasing adoption of earlier treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1664-1671
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Lisa McCall, for project management, and the ALIVE study project staff and study participants, without whom this article would not have been possible. Potential conflicts of interest. All authors: no conflicts. Financial support. Public Health Service Grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA12568 and R01 DA04334).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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