Racial Differences in Response to Antiretroviral Therapy for HIV Infection: An AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Study Analysis


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Abstract

Background. In the United States, black individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have higher rates of virologic failure on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and of death compared to white individuals. The cause for these disparities is uncertain. We sought to examine differences in virologic outcomes among antiretroviral-naive clinical trial participants starting randomized ART and to investigate factors to explain the differences.Methods. Individual-level data from participants initiating ART in 5 AIDS Clinical Trials Group studies were analyzed. Included studies were those conducted during 1998–2006 with a primary outcome of virologic failure. The primary outcome measure was time to virologic failure, regardless of ART changes.Results. A total of 2495 individuals (1151 black; 1344 white) were included with a median follow-up of 129 weeks. Compared to whites, blacks had an increased hazard of virologic failure (hazard ratio [HR]; 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4–1.9; P < .001), with no evidence of heterogeneity across regimens (P = .97); the association remained after adjustment for measured confounders (HR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.2–1.6; P < .001). Increased hazard of virologic failure was associated with younger age, higher pretreatment HIV type 1 RNA level, lower pretreatment CD4 cell count, hepatitis C antibody, less education, and recent nonadherence to treatment. Sensitivity analyses with different endpoint definitions demonstrated similar results.Conclusions. In this analysis, blacks had a 40% higher virologic failure risk than whites that was not explained by measured confounders. The observation was consistent over a range of regimens, suggesting that the difference may be driven by social factors; however, biological factors cannot be ruled out. Further research should identify the sources of racial disparities and develop strategies to reduce them.

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