The Effect of a “Universal Antiretroviral Therapy” Recommendation on HIV RNA Levels Among HIV-Infected Patients Entering Care With a CD4 Count Greater Than 500/µL in a Public Health Setting

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Abstract

Background. On 1 January 2010, a large, publicly funded clinic in San Francisco announced a “universal ART” approach to initiate antiretroviral therapy (ART) in all human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected persons. The effect of changing guidance on real-world patient outcomes has not been evaluated.

Methods. We evaluated untreated adult patients (defined as going >90 days without ART use) visiting clinic from 2001 to 2011. The cumulative incidence of HIV RNA suppression (viral load, <500 copies/mL), stratified by CD4 cell count at entry and calendar dates representing guideline issuance, were estimated using a competing risk framework. A multivariate Poisson-based model identified factors associated with HIV RNA suppression 6 months after clinic entry.

Results. Of 2245 adults, 87% were male, and the median age was 39 years (interquartile range, 33–45 years). In 534 patients entering clinic with a CD4 cell count of >500 cells/µL, the 1-year incidence of HIV RNA suppression was 10.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 6.6%–14.6%) before 4 April 2005; 9.1% (95% CI, 3.6%–17.4%) from 4 April 2005 to 1 December 2007; 14.1% (95% CI, 7.5%–22.8%) from 1 December 2007 to the universal ART recommendation and 52.8% (95% CI, 38.2%–65.4%) after. After adjustment, the SFGH policy was associated with a 6-fold increase in the probability of HIV RNA suppression 6 months after clinic entry.

Conclusions. Recommendations to initiate ART in all HIV-infected patients increased the rate of HIV RNA suppression for patients enrolling in care with a CD4 cell count of >500 cells/µL and may foreshadow national trends given the March 2012 revision of national treatment guidelines to favor ART initiation for persons with CD4 cell counts of >500 cells/µL.

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