Background: Optimal timing of ART initiation for individuals presenting with AIDS-related OIs has not been defined.
Methods and findings: A5164 was a randomized strategy trial of "early ART"--given within 14 days of starting acute OI treatment versus "deferred ART"--given after acute OI treatment is completed. Randomization was stratified by presenting OI and entry CD4 count. The primary week 48 endpoint was 3-level ordered categorical variable: 1. Death/AIDS progression; 2. No progression with incomplete viral suppression (ie HIV viral load (VL) >or=50 copies/ml); 3. No progression with optimal viral suppression (ie HIV VL <50 copies/ml). Secondary endpoints included: AIDS progression/death; plasma HIV RNA and CD4 responses and safety parameters including IRIS. 282 subjects were evaluable; 141 per arm. Entry OIs included Pneumocytis jirovecii pneumonia 63%, cryptococcal meningitis 12%, and bacterial infections 12%. The early and deferred arms started ART a median of 12 and 45 days after start of OI treatment, respectively. THE DIFFERENCE IN THE PRIMARY ENDPOINT DID NOT REACH STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE: AIDS progression/death was seen in 20 (14%) vs. 34 (24%); whereas no progression but with incomplete viral suppression was seen in 54 (38%) vs. 44 (31%); and no progression with optimal viral suppression in 67 (48%) vs 63 (45%) in the early vs. deferred arm, respectively (p = 0.22). However, the early ART arm had fewer AIDS progression/deaths (OR = 0.51; 95% CI = 0.27-0.94) and a longer time to AIDS progression/death (stratified HR = 0.53; 95% CI = 0.30-0.92). The early ART had shorter time to achieving a CD4 count above 50 cells/mL (p<0.001) and no increase in adverse events.
Conclusions: Early ART resulted in less AIDS progression/death with no increase in adverse events or loss of virologic response compared to deferred ART. These results support the early initiation of ART in patients presenting with acute AIDS-related OIs, absent major contraindications.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00055120.