Objective: CD4 cell count changes in therapy-naive patients were investigated during 7 years of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in an observational cohort.
Methods: Three endpoints were studied: (1) time to >or=800 CD4 cells/mm in 5299 therapy-naive patients starting HAART, (2) CD4 cell count changes during 7 years of uninterrupted HAART in a subset of 544 patients, and (3) reaching a plateau in CD4 cell restoration after 5 years of HAART in 366 virologically suppressed patients.
Results: Among patients with <50, 50 to 200, 200 to 350, 350 to 500, and >or=500 CD4 cells/mm at baseline, respectively, 20%, 26%, 46%, 73%, and 87% reached >or=800 CD4 cells/mm within 7 years of starting HAART. Periods with HIV RNA levels >500 copies/mL and age >or=50 years were associated with lesser increases in CD4 cell counts between 6 months and 7 years. Having reached >or=800 CD4 cells/mm at 5 years, age >or=50 years, and >or=1 HIV RNA measurement >1000 copies/mL between 5 and 7 years were associated with a plateau in CD4 cell restoration.
Conclusions: Restoration to CD4 cell counts >or=800 cells/mm is feasible within 7 years of HAART in most HIV-infected patients starting with >or=350 cells/mm and achieving sufficient suppression of viral replication. Particularly in patients >or=50 years of age, it may be beneficial to start earlier than current guidelines recommend.