Background: In Southeast Asia, HIV-infected patients frequently die during TB treatment. Many physicians are reluctant to treat HIV-infected TB patients with anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and have questions about the added value of opportunistic infection prophylaxis to ART, the optimum ART regimen, and the benefit of initiating ART early during TB treatment.
Methods: We conducted a multi-center observational study of HIV-infected patients newly diagnosed with TB in Thailand. Clinical data was collected from the beginning to the end of TB treatment. We conducted multivariable proportional hazards analysis to identify factors associated with death.
Results: Of 667 HIV-infected TB patients enrolled, 450 (68%) were smear and/or culture positive. Death during TB treatment occurred in 112 (17%). In proportional hazards analysis, factors strongly associated with reduced risk of death were ART use (Hazard Ratio [HR] 0.16; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.07-0.36), fluconazole use (HR 0.34; CI 0.18-0.64), and co-trimoxazole use (HR 0.41; CI 0.20-0.83). Among 126 patients that initiated ART after TB diagnosis, the risk of death increased the longer that ART was delayed during TB treatment. Efavirenz- and nevirapine-containing ART regimens were associated with similar rates of adverse events and death.
Conclusion: Among HIV-infected patients living in Thailand, the single most important determinant of survival during TB treatment was use of ART. Controlled clinical trials are needed to confirm our findings that early ART initiation improves survival and that the choice of non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor does not.