Critically Ill Patients With HIV: 40 Years Later

Chest. 2020 Feb;157(2):293-309. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2019.08.002. Epub 2019 Aug 14.


The development of combination antiretroviral therapies (cARTs) in the mid-1990s has dramatically modified the clinical presentation of critically ill, HIV-infected patients. Most cART-treated patients aging with controlled HIV replication are currently admitted to the ICU for non-AIDS-related events, mostly bacterial pneumonia and exacerbation of comorbidities, variably affected by chronic HIV infection (COPD, cardiovascular diseases, or solid neoplasms). Today, Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia, cerebral toxoplasmosis, TB, and other severe opportunistic infections only occur in patients with unknown viral status, limited access to cART, viral resistance, or compliance issues. Acute respiratory failure, neurological disorders, and sepsis remain the main conditions that lead HIV-infected patients to the ICU, although admissions for liver diseases or acute kidney injury are increasing. Case fatality dropped substantially over the past decades, reaching figures of HIV-uninfected critically ill patients with similar demographic characteristics, comorbidities, and level of organ dysfunctions. Several other facets of critical care management have evolved in this population, including diagnostic procedures, cART management at the acute phase of critical illness, and ethical considerations. The goal of this narrative review was to depict the current evidence and emerging challenges for the management of critically ill, HIV-infected patients, almost 40 years following the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

Keywords: AIDS; Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia; antiretroviral therapy; cancer; critical care; mechanical ventilation; opportunistic infections; outcome; sepsis; toxoplasmosis.

Publication types

  • Review