Context: Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is often withheld from injection drug users (IDUs) infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) based on the belief that their unstable lifestyles may predetermine a markedly inferior outcome with HAART. However, long-term evaluations of HIV treatment outcomes among IDUs in comparison with other risk groups are not available.
Objective: To compare survival rates among HIV-infected patients initiating HAART with and without a history of injection drug use.
Design, setting, and patients: Population-based, prospective cohort study (HAART Observational Medical Evaluation and Research [HOMER]) of 3116 antiretroviral-naive HIV-infected patients in a province-wide HIV/AIDS treatment program in British Columbia, Canada. Of the 3116 patients, 915 were IDUs (29.4%), 579 were female (18.6%), and the median age was 39.4 years (interquartile range, 33.3-46.4 years). Treatment with HAART was initiated between August 1, 1996, and June 30, 2006. The median duration of follow-up was 5.3 years (interquartile range, 2.8-8.3 years) for IDUs and 4.3 years (interquartile range, 2.0-7.6 years) for non-IDUs. Patients were followed up until June 30, 2007. Data were analyzed between November 1, 2007, and May 26, 2008.
Main outcome measure: All-cause mortality.
Results: Overall, 622 individuals died (20.0%) during the study period (232 IDUs and 390 non-IDUs), for a crude mortality rate of 20.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 18.4%-21.5%). At 84 months after the initiation of HAART, the product limit estimate of the cumulative all-cause mortality rate was similar between the 915 IDUs (26.5%; 95% CI, 23.2%-29.8%) and 2201 non-IDUs (21.6%; 95% CI, 16.9%-26.2%) (Wilcoxon P = .47). In multivariate time-updated Cox regression, the hazard ratio of mortality was similar between IDUs and non-IDUs (1.09; 95% CI, 0.92-1.29).
Conclusion: In this study population, injection drug use was not associated with decreased survival among HIV-infected patients initiating HAART.