Deaths in the era of HAART: contribution of late presentation, treatment exposure, resistance and abnormal laboratory markers

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Objectives:To describe the characteristics of deaths that occur among HIV-positive individuals in the HAART era.Design:Observational database.Methods:Deaths were reviewed that occurred among HIV-positive individuals seen at the Royal Free Hospital, London between January 1998 and December 2003.Results:Over the study period, there were 121 deaths; death rates declined from approximately 2.0/100 person-years of follow-up in 1998–2000 to approximately 1.0/100 person-years of follow-up in 2001–2003. Approximately one half of deaths (45.5%) were from AIDS-related causes and 74 deaths (61.2%) occurred in individuals who had received HAART: patients had been exposed to a median of seven (range 2–14) antiretroviral drugs and two-fifths had started treatment in the pre-HAART era. Another 15 patients had received only non-HAART treatment regimens prior to death. The median pre-death CD4 cell counts were 68 and 167 cells/μl among those who had and had not received HAART; 23 (31.1%) and 4 (8.5%) had HIV RNA < 400 copies/ml, respectively. Of the patients exposed to HAART for at least 6 months and who experienced viral rebound, information was available on resistance for 26 (21.5% of the total deaths) and 19 of those tested had at least one resistance mutation (median 5, range, 1–16).Conclusions:While mortality rates among HIV-infected individuals at our centre have fallen since 1988, the deaths that do now occur are more diverse and are the result of a number of factors, including late presentation, delayed uptake of HAART and the previous use of treatment combinations that are now viewed as suboptimal.

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