Late presenters among persons with a new HIV diagnosis in Italy, 2010-2011

BMC Public Health. 2013 Mar 27:13:281. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-281.


Background: In Western Europe, about 50% of newly diagnosed HIV-positive individuals are diagnosed at a late stage disease and enter in care late (i.e. with a CD4 count ≤350 μL/μL). The aim of the present study is to analyze the characteristics and the factors associated with being diagnosed late or at an advanced stage of disease among persons with a new HIV diagnosis in Italy, in the period 2010-2011.

Methods: We used individual data on new HIV diagnoses reported by the HIV surveillance system in 2010 and in 2011. Persons with CD4 ≤350 cells/μL or diagnosed with AIDS (regardless of the CD4 cell count) were defined as late presenters (LP); persons with CD4 ≤ 200 cells/μL or AIDS (regardless of the CD4 cell count) were defined as presenting with advanced HIV disease (AHD).

Results: Of the 7,300 new diagnoses reported in 2010-2011 by the included regions, 55.2% were LP; among these, 37.9% was diagnosed with AIDS. Persons presenting with AHD were 37.8%. The median age of LP was 40 years (IQR 33-48), significantly higher (p < 0.001) than that of non-LP (35 years); 73.9% were males; 30.7% were non-nationals. The median age of AHD was 42 years (IQR 35-50), 74.5% were males; 31.1% were non-nationals. The proportion of LP among IDUs was 59.8%, among heterosexuals (HET) 61.1% and among MSM 44.3%. The proportion of AHD among IDUs was 43.6%, among HET 43.2% and among MSM 27.4%. Factors significantly associated with being LP were: age older than 50 years (OR = 4.6 [95% CI 3.8-5.6]); having been diagnosed in Southern Italy (Southern vs Northern Italy OR = 1.5 [95% CI 1.3-1.7]) having been diagnosed in Central Italy (Central vs Northern Italy OR = 1.3 [95% CI 1.1-1.6]); being HET (HET vs MSM, OR = 1.7 [95% CI 1.5-2.0]), being non-national (Non-national vs Italian, OR 1.7 (95% CI 1.5-2.0); being IDU (IDU vs MSM, OR = 1.6 [95% CI 1.2-2.1]). The same factors were significantly associated with being AHD.

Conclusions: Older people, people diagnosed in Central and Southern Italy, non nationals, and persons who acquired the infection through injecting drug use or heterosexual contact showed a higher risk of being diagnosed late. A more active offer of HIV testing and targeted interventions focussed on these populations are needed to optimize early access to care and treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count / statistics & numerical data
  • Delayed Diagnosis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Delayed Diagnosis / trends
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Partners / classification
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*