Background: Although the impact of Aboriginal status on HIV incidence, HIV disease progression, and access to treatment has been investigated previously, little is known about the relationship between Aboriginal ethnicity and outcomes associated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). We undertook the present analysis to determine if Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal persons respond differently to HAART by measuring HIV plasma viral load response, CD4 cell response and time to all-cause mortality.
Methods: A population-based analysis of a cohort of antiretroviral therapy naïve HIV-positive Aboriginal men and women 18 years or older in British Columbia, Canada. Participants were antiretroviral therapy naïve, initiated triple combination therapy between August 1, 1996 and September 30, 1999. Participants had to complete a baseline questionnaire as well as have at least two follow-up CD4 and HIV plasma viral load measures. The primary endpoints were CD4 and HIV plasma viral load response and all cause mortality. Cox proportional hazards models were used to determine the association between Aboriginal status and CD4 cell response, HIV plasma viral load response and all-cause mortality while controlling for several confounder variables.
Results: A total of 622 participants met the study criteria. Aboriginal status was significantly associated with no AIDS diagnosis at baseline (p = 0.0296), having protease inhibitor in the first therapy (p = 0.0209), lower baseline HIV plasma viral load (p < 0.001), less experienced HIV physicians (P = 0.0133), history of IDU (p < 0.001), not completing high school (p = 0.0046), and an income of less than $10,000 per year (p = 0.0115). Cox proportional hazards models controlling for clinical characteristics found that Aboriginal status had an increased hazard of mortality (HR = 3.12, 95% CI: 1.77-5.48) but did not with HIV plasma viral load response (HR = 1.15, 95% CI: 0.89-1.48) or CD4 cell response (HR = 0.95, 95% CI: 0.73-1.23).
Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that HIV-infected Aboriginal persons accessing HAART had similar HIV treatment response as non-Aboriginal persons but have a shorter survival. This study highlights the need for continued research on medical interventions and behavioural changes among HIV-infected Aboriginal and other marginalized populations.