Copy-years viremia as a measure of cumulative human immunodeficiency virus viral burden

Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Jan 15;171(2):198-205. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp347. Epub 2009 Dec 9.


Plasma human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) viral load is a valuable tool for HIV research and clinical care but is often used in a noncumulative manner. The authors developed copy-years viremia as a measure of cumulative plasma HIV-1 viral load exposure among 297 HIV seroconverters from the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (1984-1996). Men were followed from seroconversion to incident acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), death, or the beginning of the combination antiretroviral therapy era (January 1, 1996); the median duration of follow-up was 4.6 years (interquartile range (IQR), 2.7-6.5). The median viral load and level of copy-years viremia over 2,281 semiannual follow-up assessments were 29,628 copies/mL (IQR, 8,547-80,210) and 63,659 copies x years/mL (IQR, 15,935-180,341). A total of 127 men developed AIDS or died, and 170 survived AIDS-free and were censored on January 1, 1996, or lost to follow-up. Rank correlations between copy-years viremia and other measures of viral load were 0.56-0.87. Each log(10) increase in copy-years viremia was associated with a 1.70-fold increased hazard (95% confidence interval: 0.94, 3.07) of AIDS or death, independently of infection duration, age, race, CD4 cell count, set-point, peak viral load, or most recent viral load. Copy-years viremia, a novel measure of cumulative viral burden, may provide prognostic information beyond traditional single measures of viremia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • HIV Infections / blood*
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Viral Load*
  • Viremia / blood*