Objectives: Analysis of changes in the spectrum of AIDS-defining conditions and their correlation with CD4+ lymphocyte counts in different risk groups associated with HIV transmission.
Methods: Review of data from all adult AIDS cases reported in Germany between 1986 and 1991.
Results: Among AIDS cases diagnosed between 1986 and 1991, the proportion of cases with lymphoma and wasting syndrome increased, while the proportion of Kaposi's sarcoma decreased. Homosexual men, but not intravenous drug users, showed a decrease in the proportion of cases in Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and an increase in the proportions with toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus infection. The median CD4+ lymphocyte count at time of AIDS diagnosis decreased from 73 x 10(6)/l in 1986 (25 and 75 percentiles, 28 and 212) to 47 x 10(6)/l in 1990 (25 and 75 percentiles, 20 and 120; P less than 0.01). This decrease was the result of reduced CD4+ lymphocyte counts of individuals presenting with opportunistic infections; there was no corresponding change for individuals with non-infectious AIDS-defining conditions.
Conclusions: AIDS diagnosis is now occurring at a later time in the natural history of HIV infection than in 1986, and the relative frequency of specific AIDS-defining conditions has changed. Most pronounced is a decrease of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Changes in the natural history of HIV infection due to therapeutic and prophylactic interventions must be considered when interpreting epidemiological data in the course of the AIDS epidemic. These changes also have implications for the planning and execution of medical care.