Background: Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is a combination of an HIV protease inhibitor (PI), one or two reverse transcriptase inhibitors (RTIs) and/or non-nuclease reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). This combination therapy is able to reduce peripheral HIV viral load, elevate CD4+ cell counts and improve the clinical outcome.
Aim: To evaluate the impact of HAART therapy, including one PI, on the prevalence of skin diseases in patients with HIV/AIDS.
Patients and methods: The study was performed by collecting data about HIV populations followed at the 'M. Bufalini' Infectious Diseases Unit and San Patrignano Medical Centre, Italy. The medical records regarding the dermatological diseases of such people were retrospectively examined in 12-month periods before (1996) and after (1999) the introduction of HAART.
Results: The two groups of patients were matched for age, gender and stage of HIV disease. During the first part of the study, 328 of the 456 patients (72%) sought medical advice 689 times for dermatoses. In the second period, 196 of the 502 patients (39%) made a total of 255 visits. There was a considerable decrease in the number of dermatological visits (-63%) and patients with dermatological problems (-40%). In the group that did not receive HAART, 66% of the patients had cutaneous infections, 25% had inflammatory cutaneous disorders, 8% adverse cutaneous drug reactions and 1% cutaneous neoplasms. In the group of patients treated with HAART, cutaneous infections were observed in 53% of patients, while 21% of patients had inflammatory dermatoses, 20% of patients showed adverse cutaneous drug reactions, and 1% had skin cancers. The remaining 5% asked to see a dermatologist for cosmetic reasons.
Conclusions: The group of patients who received combination regimens including PIs had significantly lower cutaneous morbidity than those treated with nucleoside analogs alone. This tendency included both opportunistic infections and inflammatory cutaneous diseases. Adverse cutaneous drug reactions related to multidrug combination therapy were significantly higher in the group receiving HAART.