Background: The efficacy of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in suppression of HIV-1 is well documented. We investigated virological and clinical outcomes of HAART in routine practice.
Methods: We analysed prospective data from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study on suppression of viral load and progression to AIDS or death in 2674 outpatients (median age 36 years, 27.3% women) who started HAART in 1995-98. Viral rebound was defined as two consecutive HIV-1-RNA measurements of more than 400 copies/mL. We analysed separately outcomes in patients with a history of antiretroviral treatment and in treatment-naïve patients.
Findings: An estimated 90.7% of treatment-naïve patients reached undetectable viral load (<400 copies/mL) by 12 months. Among pretreated patients, estimates ranged from 70.3% treated with one new drug to 78.7% on three new drugs. 2 years after reaching undetectable concentrations, an estimated 20.1% of treatment-naïve patients and 35.7-40.1% of pretreated patients had viral rebound. At 30 months, an estimated 6.6% (95% CI 4.6-8.6) of patients who had maintained undetectable concentrations, 9.0% (5.5-12.5) who had viral rebound, and 20.1% (15.3-24.9) who had never reached undetectable concentrations developed AIDS or died. Compared with patients who maintained undetectable viral load, the adjusted relative hazard of AIDS or death was 1.00 (0.66-1.55) for patients with viral rebound, and 2.40 (1.72-3.33) for patients who failed to reach undetectable concentrations.
Interpretation: The rate of virological failure of HAART was high among these patients, but the probability of clinical progression was low even in patients with viral rebound.