Successful antiretroviral therapy delivery and retention in care among asymptomatic individuals with high CD4+ T-cell counts above 350 cells/μl in rural Uganda

AIDS. 2014 Sep 24;28(15):2241-9. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000401.


Background: HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) is being rapidly scaled up in sub-Saharan Africa, including recently patients with CD4 T-cell counts above 350 cells/μl. However, concerns persist about adherence and virologic suppression among these asymptomatic, high CD4 cell count individuals.

Objective: To determine the virologic efficacy and safety of ART among asymptomatic HIV-positive Ugandan adults with high CD4 cell counts above 350 cells/μl via a streamlined model of care.

Design: Prospective nonrandomized clinical study (EARLI Study: NCT#01479634).

Setting: Prototypic rural Ugandan HIV clinic.

Patients/participants: Asymptomatic, ART-naive adults (aged >18 years, N = 197) with CD4 at least 350 cells/μl, without pregnancy or WHO stage 3/4 illness.

Interventions: ART included tenofovir/emtricitabine/efavirenz, with ritonavir/lopinavir substitution for efavirenz available. Streamlined ART model included nurse-driven visits with physician back-up, basic safety laboratory monitoring with HIV viral load, clinician telephone contact, and defaulter tracking. No incentives were provided.

Outcomes: Undetectable viral load (≤400 copies/ml) at 24 and 48 weeks [intention to treat (ITT); missing = detectable), self-reported ART adherence, retention in care, and laboratory/clinical ART toxicities.

Results: Of the 197 patients with CD4 above 350 cells/μl, median CD4 cell count was 569 cells/μl (interquartile range 451-716). Undetectable viral load was achieved in 189 of 197 (95.9%, ITT) and 189 of 195 (96.9%, ITT) of participants at weeks 24 and 48, respectively. Self-reported adherence was 98% and 192 of 197 (97%) of the patients were retained at week 48. Laboratory adverse events and hospitalizations were rare.

Conclusions: We demonstrate high virologic suppression, retention, and safety among asymptomatic individuals with CD4 above 350 cells/μl in a prototypic Ugandan clinic. Our results challenge current concerns that individuals with high CD4 cell count lack motivation for ART, and may not achieve sustained virologic suppression.

Trial registration: NCT01479634.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / pathology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rural Population
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Uganda
  • Viral Load


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents

Associated data