Background: Randomized-trial data on the risks and benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART) as compared with zidovudine and single-dose nevirapine to prevent transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in HIV-infected pregnant women with high CD4 counts are lacking.
Methods: We randomly assigned HIV-infected women at 14 or more weeks of gestation with CD4 counts of at least 350 cells per cubic millimeter to zidovudine and single-dose nevirapine plus a 1-to-2-week postpartum "tail" of tenofovir and emtricitabine (zidovudine alone); zidovudine, lamivudine, and lopinavir-ritonavir (zidovudine-based ART); or tenofovir, emtricitabine, and lopinavir-ritonavir (tenofovir-based ART). The primary outcomes were HIV transmission at 1 week of age in the infant and maternal and infant safety.
Results: The median CD4 count was 530 cells per cubic millimeter among 3490 primarily black African HIV-infected women enrolled at a median of 26 weeks of gestation (interquartile range, 21 to 30). The rate of transmission was significantly lower with ART than with zidovudine alone (0.5% in the combined ART groups vs. 1.8%; difference, -1.3 percentage points; repeated confidence interval, -2.1 to -0.4). However, the rate of maternal grade 2 to 4 adverse events was significantly higher with zidovudine-based ART than with zidovudine alone (21.1% vs. 17.3%, P=0.008), and the rate of grade 2 to 4 abnormal blood chemical values was higher with tenofovir-based ART than with zidovudine alone (2.9% vs. 0.8%, P=0.03). Adverse events did not differ significantly between the ART groups (P>0.99). A birth weight of less than 2500 g was more frequent with zidovudine-based ART than with zidovudine alone (23.0% vs. 12.0%, P<0.001) and was more frequent with tenofovir-based ART than with zidovudine alone (16.9% vs. 8.9%, P=0.004); preterm delivery before 37 weeks was more frequent with zidovudine-based ART than with zidovudine alone (20.5% vs. 13.1%, P<0.001). Tenofovir-based ART was associated with higher rates than zidovudine-based ART of very preterm delivery before 34 weeks (6.0% vs. 2.6%, P=0.04) and early infant death (4.4% vs. 0.6%, P=0.001), but there were no significant differences between tenofovir-based ART and zidovudine alone (P=0.10 and P=0.43). The rate of HIV-free survival was highest among infants whose mothers received zidovudine-based ART.
Conclusions: Antenatal ART resulted in significantly lower rates of early HIV transmission than zidovudine alone but a higher risk of adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health; PROMISE ClinicalTrials.gov numbers, NCT01061151 and NCT01253538 .).