Background: Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is typically begun weeks after HIV diagnosis. We assessed the acceptability, feasibility, safety, and efficacy of initiating ART on the same day as diagnosis.
Methods: We studied a clinic-based cohort consisting of consecutive patients who were referred with new HIV diagnosis between June 2013 and December 2014. A subset of patients with acute or recent infection (<6 months) or CD4 <200 were managed according to a "RAPID" care initiation protocol. An intensive, same-day appointment included social needs assessment; medical provider evaluation; and a first ART dose offered after laboratories were drawn. Patient acceptance of ART, drug toxicities, drug resistance, and time to viral suppression outcomes were compared between RAPID participants and contemporaneous patients (who were not offered the program), and with an historical cohort.
Results: Among 86 patients, 39 were eligible and managed on the RAPID protocol. Thirty-seven (94.9%) of 39 in RAPID began ART within 24 hours. Minor toxicity with the initial regimen occurred in 2 (5.1%) of intervention patients versus none in the nonintervention group. Loss to follow-up was similar in intervention (10.3%) and nonintervention patients (14.9%) during the study. Time to virologic suppression (<200 copies HIV RNA/mL) was significantly faster (median 1.8 months) among intervention-managed patients when compared with patients treated in the same clinic under prior recommendations for universal ART (4.3 months; P = 0.0001).
Conclusions: Treatment for HIV infection can be started on the day of diagnosis without impacting the safety or acceptability of ART. Same-day ART may shorten the time to virologic suppression.