Clinical progression and virological failure on highly active antiretroviral therapy in HIV-1 patients: a prospective cohort study. Swiss HIV Cohort Study

Lancet. 1999 Mar 13;353(9156):863-8. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(99)01122-8.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count / drug effects
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV-1* / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Life Tables
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Probability
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Switzerland
  • Treatment Failure
  • Viral Load


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • RNA, Viral