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HIV Clin Trials. 2005 May-Jun;6(3):127-35.

Comparison of prognostic importance of latest CD4+ cell count and HIV RNA levels in patients with advanced HIV infection on highly active antiretroviral therapy.

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Wayne State University, University Health Center, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


The comparative prognostic importance of latest plasma HIV RNA levels (viral loads) and CD4+ cell counts among patients prescribed highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has not been well characterized.


We assessed the prognostic value of latest CD4+ cell counts and latest viral loads for progression to AIDS or death and explored their interaction among 432 HIV-infected persons with advanced HIV who were prescribed a protease inhibitor (PI) as their first HAART regimen.


Pre-HAART median CD4+ cell count and viral load were 41 cells/mm3 and 126,331 copies/mL, respectively. After 12 months of HAART, the median CD4+ cell count was 154 cells/mm3; 39% of patients had a viral load of 400 copies/mL or lower. Over a median follow-up of 33 months, 109 (25%) of the 432 patients experienced an AIDS event or died. The hazard ratio for AIDS or death for those with latest CD4+ cell count <50 cells/mm3 versus > or =200 cells/mm3 was 13.9 (95% CI 6.5 to 29.7) without adjustment for latest viral load measurements and 9.5 (95% CI 4.0 to 22.5) after adjustment for latest viral load. In contrast, the hazard ratio for AIDS or death for those with viral load > or =100,000 versus <400 copies/mL was 4.2 (95% CI 2.3 to 7.7) without adjustment for latest CD4+ level and 1.2 (95% CI 0.6 to 2.4) with adjustment for latest CD4+ cell count.


We conclude that when latest CD4+ cell count and viral load are considered separately, both are significantly related to AIDS or death; when these markers are jointly considered, the association of viral load with AIDS or death is substantially diminished. Latest CD4+ levels are more strongly related to AIDS or death than latest viral load levels in patients on HAART.

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