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AIDS Care. 2011 May;23(5):569-77. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2010.525607.

Treatment switching in South Indian patients on HAART: what are the predictors and consequences?

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Department of Medicine, St John's Medical College and Hospital, Bangalore, India.


Early identification and management of treatment failure on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is crucial in maintaining a sustained response to therapy in HIV infection. However, HIV viral load (VL) and resistance testing, and second-line HAART regimens, are unaffordable to many patients in India, leaving them with limited treatment options. Predictors and reasons for antiretroviral switching, therefore, are likely to differ in settings of varying resources. A one-year, observational study of patients receiving antiretroviral therapy was conducted in a private, non-profit hospital in Bangalore. This paper examines the predictors and consequences of antiretroviral treatment switching in this setting and explores reasons for switching in a subset of patients. Data on demographics, drug regimens, adherence, and physical and psychosocial outcomes were collected quarterly. Tests of VL and CD4 cell counts were performed every six months. One-third of the patients switched therapy during the study period. Baseline predictors of switching included lower CD4 cell counts and more physical symptoms. Contrary to studies in other settings, a high VL did not predict treatment switching, and only a minority of those experiencing drug failure were switched to second-line regimens. Both groups (switchers and non-switchers) improved significantly over time with respect to CD4 counts and psychological well-being, and showed a reduction in physical and depressive symptoms. Any differences between the groups were no longer significant at the end of the study, once we controlled for baseline levels. Clinical, policy, and research implications of these findings are discussed within the context of resource-limited settings.

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