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Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Sep;53(6):600-4. doi: 10.1093/cid/cir467. Epub 2011 Aug 14.

Dramatic decline in the HIV-1 RNA level over calendar time in a large urban HIV practice.

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Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.



We have previously showed that as antiretroviral therapy has improved over time since 1995-1996, the likelihood of achieving virologic suppression has also improved. Antiretroviral therapy and antiretroviral therapy guidelines have continued to evolve, and we wished to determine the trend in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) RNA levels over time in HIV-infected persons receiving care in our large urban HIV clinical practice in Baltimore, Maryland.


The HIV-1 RNA level was assessed each year from 1996 through 2010 at the date closest to 1 July for all patients in care and followed up in the Johns Hopkins HIV Clinical Cohort. The clinic population's median HIV-1 RNA level and stratified threshold levels were plotted. The demographic characteristics of the population were also assessed over time.


From 1996 (shortly after highly active antiretroviral therapy [HAART] was introduced) to 2010, the median HIV-1 RNA level decreased from 10,400 to <200 copies/mL. The proportion of patients with an HIV-1 RNA level >500 copies/mL decreased from 75% to only 16% during this same period. The population itself became older, had a higher proportion of women, and a lower proportion of patients with injection drug use as a transmission risk, but it was geographically stable. There was an increase in HAART use over time.


Our results demonstrate the remarkable impact of increased use of and improved management with HAART in this urban HIV-infected population.

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