Background: Human immunodeficiency virus-associated nephropathy (HIVAN) can be the initial presentation of HIV-1 infection. As a result, many have assumed that HIVAN can occur at any point in the infection. This issue has important implications for appropriate therapy and, perhaps, for pathogenesis. Since the development of new case definitions for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and better tools to assess infection, the relationship of HIVAN to the time of AIDS infection has not been addressed. In this study, we reassessed the stage of infection at the time of HIVAN diagnosis in 10 patients, and we reviewed all previously published cases applying the new case definitions to assess stage of infection.
Methods: HIVAN was confirmed by kidney biopsy in HIV seropositive patients with azotemia and/or proteinuria. CD4+ cell count and plasma HIV-1 RNA copy number were measured. We also reviewed all published cases of HIVAN to determine if AIDS-defining conditions, by current Centers for Disease Control definitions, were present in patients with biopsy-proven HIVAN.
Results: Twenty HIV-1 seropositive patients with proteinuria and an elevated creatinine concentration were biopsied. HIVAN was the single most common cause of renal disease. CD4+ cell count was below 200/mm3 in all patients with HIVAN, fulfilling Centers for Disease Control criteria for an AIDS-defining condition. HIV-1 plasma RNA was detectable in all patients with HIVAN. In reviewing previous reports, an AIDS-defining condition was present in virtually all patients with HIVAN.
Conclusion: HIVAN develops late, not early, in the course of HIV-1 infection following the development of AIDS. This likely accounts for the poor prognosis noted in previous publications and has implications for pathogenesis. In addition, given the detectable viral RNA levels, highly active antiretroviral therapy is indicated in HIVAN. Highly active antiretroviral therapy may improve survival as well as alter the natural history of HIVAN.