Because activation of T cells is associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pathogenesis, CD4 and CD8 activation levels in patients coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) may explain conflicting reports regarding effects of HCV on HIV disease progression.
Kaplan-Meier and multivariate Cox regression models were used to study the risk of incident clinical AIDS and AIDS-related deaths among 813 HCV-negative women with HIV infection, 87 HCV-positive nonviremic women with HIV coinfection, and 407 HCV-positive viremic women with HIV coinfection (median follow-up time, 5.2 years). For 592 women, the percentages of activated CD4 and CD8 T cells expressing HLA-DR (DR) and/or CD38 were evaluated.
HCV-positive viremic women had a statistically significantly higher percentage of activated CD8 T cells (P < .001) and a statistically significantly higher incidence of AIDS compared with HCV-negative women (P < .001 [log-rank test]). The AIDS risk was greater among HCV-positive viremic women in the highest tertile compared with the lowest tertile (>43% vs <26%) of CD8+CD38+DR+ T cells (hazard ratio, 2.94 [95% confidence interval, 1.50–5.77]; P =.001). This difference was not observed in the HCV-negative women (hazard ratio, 1.87 [95% confidence interval, 0.80–4.35]; P =.16). In contrast, CD4 activation predicted AIDS in both groups similarly. Increased percentages of CD8+CD38−DR+, CD4+CD38−DR−, and CD8+CD38−DR− T cells were associated with a >60% decreased risk of AIDS for HCV-positive viremic women and HCV-negative women.
HCV-positive viremic women with HIV coinfection who have high levels of T cell activation may have increased risk of AIDS. Earlier treatment of HIV and HCV infection may be beneficial.