Although highly active antiretroviral therapy has been shown to lower plasma HIV-1 RNA in HIV infection, many patients do not reach the target goal of undetectable viremia. We evaluated whether risk of clinical progression varies by level of viral suppression achieved.Design
Patients in the Collaborations in HIV Outcomes Research/United States cohort who maintained stable HIV-1 RNA levels of either <400, 400 to 20,000, or >20,000 copies/mL during a run-in period of at least 6 months were studied. Baseline was the first day after this period.Methods
Proportional hazards models were used to quantify the relation between baseline HIV-1 RNA levels and risk of a new AIDS-defining diagnosis or death after adjusting for CD4 count, age, gender, ethnicity, study site, prior AIDS-defining diagnosis, and antiretroviral therapy history.Results
Patients (N = 3010) were followed for up to 4.3 years after the 6-month run-in period, with 343 deaths or AIDS-defining diagnoses reported. The risk of a new AIDS-defining diagnosis or death was not significantly different in the 400 to 20,000– and <400-copies/mL groups (6% vs. 7%, hazard ratio [HR] = 1.0, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.7–1.4; P = 0.9) but was significantly higher in the >20,000-copies/mL group (26%, HR = 3.3, 95% CI: 2.5–4.4; P < 0.001 vs. the <400-copies/mL group). Median CD4 count changes during the first year of follow-up showed increases of 75 and 13 cells/mm3 for the <400- and 400 to 20,000–copies/mL groups, respectively, whereas the >20,000-copies/mL group had a decrease of 23 cells/mm3.Conclusions
Patients who maintained baseline HIV-1 RNA levels of 400 to 20,000 copies/mL for at least 6 months preserved immunologic status and were no more likely to die or develop a new AIDS-defining diagnosis in the time frame studied than those with baseline levels <400 copies/mL. Patients with HIV-1 RNA levels >20,000 copies/mL at baseline had greater clinical and immunologic deterioration. These data suggest that maintenance of moderate viremia may confer clinical benefit not seen when viremia exceeds 20,000 copies/mL, and this should be taken into account when considering the risks and benefits of continuing failing therapy.