Comparison of dynamic monitoring strategies based on CD4 cell counts in virally suppressed, HIV-positive individuals on combination antiretroviral therapy in high-income countries: a prospective, observational study

Lancet HIV. 2017 Jun;4(6):e251-e259. doi: 10.1016/S2352-3018(17)30043-7. Epub 2017 Apr 11.


Background: Clinical guidelines vary with respect to the optimal monitoring frequency of HIV-positive individuals. We compared dynamic monitoring strategies based on time-varying CD4 cell counts in virologically suppressed HIV-positive individuals.

Methods: In this observational study, we used data from prospective studies of HIV-positive individuals in Europe (France, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK) and North and South America (Brazil, Canada, and the USA) in The HIV-CAUSAL Collaboration and The Centers for AIDS Research Network of Integrated Clinical Systems. We compared three monitoring strategies that differ in the threshold used to measure CD4 cell count and HIV RNA viral load every 3-6 months (when below the threshold) or every 9-12 months (when above the threshold). The strategies were defined by the threshold CD4 counts of 200 cells per μL, 350 cells per μL, and 500 cells per μL. Using inverse probability weighting to adjust for baseline and time-varying confounders, we estimated hazard ratios (HRs) of death and of AIDS-defining illness or death, risk ratios of virological failure, and mean differences in CD4 cell count.

Findings: 47 635 individuals initiated an antiretroviral therapy regimen between Jan 1, 2000, and Jan 9, 2015, and met the eligibility criteria for inclusion in our study. During follow-up, CD4 cell count was measured on average every 4·0 months and viral load every 3·8 months. 464 individuals died (107 in threshold 200 strategy, 157 in threshold 350, and 200 in threshold 500) and 1091 had AIDS-defining illnesses or died (267 in threshold 200 strategy, 365 in threshold 350, and 459 in threshold 500). Compared with threshold 500, the mortality HR was 1·05 (95% CI 0·86-1·29) for threshold 200 and 1·02 (0·91·1·14) for threshold 350. Corresponding estimates for death or AIDS-defining illness were 1·08 (0·95-1·22) for threshold 200 and 1·03 (0·96-1·12) for threshold 350. Compared with threshold 500, the 24 month risk ratios of virological failure (viral load more than 200 copies per mL) were 2·01 (1·17-3·43) for threshold 200 and 1·24 (0·89-1·73) for threshold 350, and 24 month mean CD4 cell count differences were 0·4 (-25·5 to 26·3) cells per μL for threshold 200 and -3·5 (-16·0 to 8·9) cells per μL for threshold 350.

Interpretation: Decreasing monitoring to annually when CD4 count is higher than 200 cells per μL compared with higher than 500 cells per μL does not worsen the short-term clinical and immunological outcomes of virally suppressed HIV-positive individuals. However, more frequent virological monitoring might be necessary to reduce the risk of virological failure. Further follow-up studies are needed to establish the long-term safety of these strategies.

Funding: National Institutes of Health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / economics
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Developed Countries
  • Drug Monitoring / economics
  • Drug Monitoring / methods*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / blood
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / economics
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / drug effects
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification
  • HIV-1 / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Viral Load
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-HIV Agents