Causes of death among persons with AIDS in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy: New York City

Ann Intern Med. 2006 Sep 19;145(6):397-406. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-145-6-200609190-00003.


Background: Monitoring the full spectrum of causes of death among persons with AIDS is increasingly important as survival improves because of highly active antiretroviral therapy.

Objective: To describe recent trends in deaths due to HIV-related and non-HIV-related causes among persons with AIDS, identify factors associated with these deaths, and identify leading causes of non-HIV-related deaths.

Design: Population-based cohort analysis.

Setting: New York City.

Patients: All adults (age > or =13 years) living with AIDS between 1999 and 2004 who were reported to the New York City HIV/AIDS Reporting System and Vital Statistics Registry through 2004 (n = 68,669).

Measurements: Underlying cause of death on the death certificate.

Results: Between 1999 and 2004, the percentage of deaths due to non-HIV-related causes increased by 32.8% (from 19.8% to 26.3%; P = 0.015). The age-adjusted mortality rate decreased by 49.6 deaths per 10,000 persons with AIDS (P < 0.001) annually for HIV-related causes but only by 7.5 deaths per 10 000 persons with AIDS (P = 0.004) annually for non-HIV-related causes. Of deaths due to non-HIV-related causes, 76% could be attributed to substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, or a non-AIDS-defining type of cancer. Compared with men who have sex with men, injection drug users had a statistically significantly increased risk for death due to HIV-related causes (hazard ratio, 1.59 [95% CI, 1.49 to 1.70]) and non-HIV-related causes (hazard ratio, 2.54 [CI, 2.24 to 2.87]).

Limitations: Compared with autopsy and chart review, death certificates may lack specificity in the underlying cause of death or detailed clinical and treatment-related information.

Conclusions: Non-HIV-related causes of death account for one fourth of all deaths of persons with AIDS. Cardiovascular disease, non-AIDS-defining cancer, and substance abuse account for most non-HIV-related deaths. Reducing deaths from these causes requires a shift in the health care model for persons with AIDS from a primary focus on managing HIV infection to providing care that addresses all aspects of physical and mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / mortality*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cause of Death*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Death Certificates
  • Female
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / mortality