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1.  HIV Infection, Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation and Longitudinal Changes in Biomarkers of Organ Function§ 
Current HIV research  2014;12(1):50-59.
HIV is associated with end-organ diseases of aging via unclear mechanisms. Longitudinally assessing how HIV infection and ART initiation affect biomarkers of end organ function/disease could clarify these mechanisms. We investigated longitudinal changes in clinical biomarkers following 1) HIV infection and 2) ART initiation with evidence of viral suppression.
Cohort: Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort (VACS VC). VACS VC is a longitudinal cohort of HIV infected (HIV+) and race-ethnicity, sex, age, and clinical site-matched uninfected Veterans enrolled in the same calendar year. Inclusion criteria: a negative and successively positive (>six months) HIV antibody test. We used Wilcoxon signed-rank tests to analyze 1) the effect of HIV infection on lipids, renal, hepatic and hematologic/cardiovascular biomarkers and 2)whether ART initiation with HIV-1 RNA<500 cpm reverts any changes back to pre-HIV levels
422 Veterans had at least 1 biomarker measurement available prior to HIV infection and prior to ART initiation. 297 had at least 1 biomarker measurement available prior to HIV infection and after ART initiation with evidence of viral suppression. Mean age prior to HIV infection was 43 years. HIV infection was associated with reduction in total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, serum albumin, ALT, platelet count, hemoglobin and elevation of FIB-4 score and triglycerides. These changes occurred without significant changes in BMI. ART initiation (with HIV-1 RNA<500cpm) did not reverse alteration in triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, hemoglobin, or FIB-4 to pre-HIV infection levels.
HIV infection is associated with longitudinal changes in serum levels of several biomarkers of end-organ function/disease and mortality. Multiple biomarkers (triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, hemoglobin, and FIB-4) remain altered from levels prior to HIV infection levels even following inititiation of ART and evidence of viral suppression. These results give insights into underlying mechanisms of increased risk for aging-related chronic diseases in the context of HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC4495647  PMID: 25034208
Clinical biomarkers; chronic diseases of aging; HIV infection; lipids
2.  CD8+ T-Cells Count in Acute Myocardial Infarction in HIV Disease in a Predominantly Male Cohort 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:246870.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus- (HIV-) infected persons have a higher risk for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) than HIV-uninfected persons. Earlier studies suggest that HIV viral load, CD4+ T-cell count, and antiretroviral therapy are associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Whether CD8+ T-cell count is associated with CVD risk is not clear. We investigated the association between CD8+ T-cell count and incident AMI in a cohort of 73,398 people (of which 97.3% were men) enrolled in the U.S. Veterans Aging Cohort Study-Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC). Compared to uninfected people, HIV-infected people with high baseline CD8+ T-cell counts (>1065 cells/mm3) had increased AMI risk (adjusted HR = 1.82, P < 0.001, 95% CI: 1.46 to 2.28). There was evidence that the effect of CD8+ T-cell tertiles on AMI risk differed by CD4+ T-cell level: compared to uninfected people, HIV-infected people with CD4+ T-cell counts ≥200 cells/mm3 had increased AMI risk with high CD8+ T-cell count, while those with CD4+ T-cell counts <200 cells/mm3 had increased AMI risk with low CD8+ T-cell count. CD8+ T-cell counts may add additional AMI risk stratification information beyond that provided by CD4+ T-cell counts alone.
PMCID: PMC4320893  PMID: 25688354
3.  Prehypertension, Hypertension, and the Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction in HIV-Infected and -Uninfected Veterans 
We found increased acute myocardial infarction risk among hypertensive and prehypertensive HIV-infected veterans compared to normotensive uninfected veterans, independent of confounding comorbidities.
Background. Compared to uninfected people, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected individuals may have an increased risk of acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Currently, HIV-infected people are treated to the same blood pressure (BP) goals (<140/90 or <130/80 mm Hg) as their uninfected counterparts. Whether HIV-infected people with elevated BP have excess AMI risk compared to uninfected people is not known. This study examines whether the association between elevated BP and AMI risk differs by HIV status.
Methods. The Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort (VACS VC) consists of HIV-infected and -uninfected veterans matched 1:2 on age, sex, race/ethnicity, and clinical site. For this analysis, we analyzed 81 026 people with available BP data from VACS VC, who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. BP was the average of the 3 routine outpatient clinical measurements performed closest to baseline (first clinical visit after April 2003). BP categories used in the analyses were based on criteria of the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Analyses were performed using Cox proportional hazards regression.
Results. Over 5.9 years (median), 860 incident AMIs occurred. Low/high prehypertensive and untreated/treated hypertensive HIV-infected individuals had increased AMI risk compared to uninfected, untreated normotensive individuals (hazard ratio [HR], 1.60 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.07–2.39]; HR, 1.81 [95% CI, 1.22–2.68]; HR, 2.57 [95% CI, 1.76–3.76]; and HR, 2.76 [95% CI, 1.90–4.02], respectively).
Conclusions. HIV, prehypertensive BP, and hypertensive BP were associated with an increased risk of AMI in a cohort of HIV-infected and -uninfected veterans. Future studies should prospectively investigate whether HIV interacts with BP to further increase AMI risk.
PMCID: PMC3864500  PMID: 24065316
blood pressure; prehypertension; HIV; myocardial infarction
4.  The Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease Among Veterans with and without HIV and Hepatitis C 
Whether hepatitis C (HCV) confers additional coronary heart disease (CHD) risk among Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infected individuals is unclear. Without appropriate adjustment for antiretroviral therapy, CD4 count, and HIV-1 RNA, and substantially different mortality rates among those with and without HIV and HCV infection, the association between HIV, HCV, and CHD may be obscured.
Methods and Results
We analyzed data on 8579 participants (28% HIV+, 9% HIV+HCV+) from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort who participated in the 1999 Large Health Study of Veteran Enrollees. We analyzed data collected on HIV and HCV status, risk factors for and the incidence of CHD, and mortality from 1/2000–7/2007. We compared models to assess CHD risk when death was treated as a censoring event and as a competing risk. During the median 7.3 years of follow-up, there were 194 CHD events and 1186 deaths. Compared with HIV−HCV− Veterans, HIV+ HCV+ Veterans had a significantly higher risk of CHD regardless of whether death was adjusted for as a censoring event (adjusted hazard ratio (HR)=2.03, 95% CI=1.28–3.21) or a competing risk (adjusted HR=2.45, 95% CI=1.83–3.27 respectively). Compared with HIV+HCV− Veterans, HIV+ HCV+ Veterans also had a significantly higher adjusted risk of CHD regardless of whether death was treated as a censored event (adjusted HR=1.93, 95% CI=1.02–3.62) or a competing risk (adjusted HR =1.46, 95% CI=1.03–2.07).
HIV+HCV+ Veterans have an increased risk of CHD compared to HIV+HCV−, and HIV−HCV− Veterans.
PMCID: PMC3159506  PMID: 21712519
viruses; coronary disease; mortality; multi morbidity
5.  Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) 
Medical care  2006;44(8 Suppl 2):S13-S24.
The Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) is a study of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected and uninfected patients seen in infectious disease and general medical clinics. VACS includes the earlier 3 and 5 site studies (VACS 3 and VACS 5) as well as the ongoing 8 site study.
We sought to provide background and context for analyses based upon VACS data, including study design and rationale as well as its basic protocol and the baseline characteristics of the enrolled sample.
Research Design
We undertook a prospectively consented multisite observational study of veterans in care with and without HIV infection.
Data were derived from patient and provider self report, telephone interviews, blood and DNA samples, focus groups, and full access to the national VA “paperless” electronic medical record system.
More than 7200 veterans have been enrolled in at least one of the studies. The 8 site study (VACS) has enrolled 2979 HIV-infected and 3019 HIV-uninfected age–race–site matched comparators and has achieved stratified enrollment targets for race/ethnicity and age and 99% of its total target enrollment as of October 30, 2005. Participants in VACS are similar to other veterans receiving care within the VA. VACS participants are older and more predominantly black than those reported by the Centers for Disease Control.
VACS has assembled a rich, in-depth, and representative sample of veterans in care with and without HIV infection to conduct longitudinal analyses of questions concerning the association between alcohol use and related comorbid and AIDS-defining conditions.
PMCID: PMC3049942  PMID: 16849964
HIV/AIDS; alcohol; aging veterans; data management/research design
6.  Hepatitis C Patients' Self-reported Adherence to Pegylated Interferon and Ribavirin 
Prior research on adherence to Hepatitis C treatment has documented rates of dose reductions and early treatment discontinuation, but little is known about patients' dose-taking adherence.
To assess the prevalence of missed doses of pegylated interferon and ribavirin and examine the correlates of dose-taking adherence in clinic settings.
180 patients on treatment for Hepatitis C (23% co-infected with HIV) completed a cross-sectional survey at the site of their Hepatitis C care.
Seven percent of patients reported missing at least one injection of pegylated interferon in the last four weeks and 21% reported missing at least one dose of ribavirin in the last 7 days. Dose-taking adherence was not associated with HCV viral load.
Self-reported dose nonadherence to Hepatitis C treatment occurs frequently. Further studies of dose nonadherence (assessed by method other than self-report) and its relationship to HCV virologic outcome are warranted.
PMCID: PMC2891196  PMID: 19086329
Adherence; HCV; HIV; co-infection; interferon; ribavirin
7.  The Association Between the Receipt of Lipid Lowering Therapy and HIV Status Among Veterans Who Met NCEP/ATP III Criteria for the Receipt of Lipid Lowering Medication 
To examine the association between HIV infection status and the receipt of lipid lowering therapy based on National Cholesterol Education Program/Adult Treatment Panel (NCEP/ATP III) guidelines and to assess whether HIV viral load and hepatitis C (HCV) status alters that association.
A cross-sectional analysis of survey, laboratory, and pharmacy data from 1,577 male participants (59% HIV infected) of the Veterans Aging Cohort Five-Site Study, a prospective observational cohort of U.S. veterans with and without HIV infection.
Receipt of lipid lowering therapy obtained from the VA pharmacy benefits management system was the main outcome.
The prevalence of lipid lowering therapy among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected veterans was 15.4% vs. 37.9%, respectively,  < 0.01. Among veterans who met NCEP/ATP III criteria for lipid lowering therapy, HIV-infected veterans had a significantly lower prevalence for the receipt of lipid lowering therapy (adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 0.43, 95% confidence interval (C.I.) 0.28–0.67) as compared with HIV-uninfected veterans. Among HIV-infected veterans, log HIV viral load (adjusted OR = 0.57, 95% CI, 0.41–0.81) and HIV-HCV co-infection (adjusted OR = 0.31, 95% CI = 0.13–0.75) were negatively associated with receipt of lipid lowering therapy. Exposure to HAART was not associated with receipt of lipid lowering therapy.
Among those who met NCEP/ATP III criteria for lipid lowering therapy, HIV-infected veterans, particularly those with high HIV viral loads and HCV co-infection, were significantly less likely to receive lipid lowering therapy. This may be a modifiable mediator of cardiovascular disease among HIV-infected individuals.
PMCID: PMC2642578  PMID: 19127386
HIV; cholesterol; hepatitis C; men; veterans; cardiovascular diseases
8.  Implementing and evaluating a regional strategy to improve testing rates in VA patients at risk for HIV, utilizing the QUERI process as a guiding framework: QUERI Series 
We describe how we used the framework of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) to develop a program to improve rates of diagnostic testing for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This venture was prompted by the observation by the CDC that 25% of HIV-infected patients do not know their diagnosis – a point of substantial importance to the VA, which is the largest provider of HIV care in the United States.
Following the QUERI steps (or process), we evaluated: 1) whether undiagnosed HIV infection is a high-risk, high-volume clinical issue within the VA, 2) whether there are evidence-based recommendations for HIV testing, 3) whether there are gaps in the performance of VA HIV testing, and 4) the barriers and facilitators to improving current practice in the VA.
Based on our findings, we developed and initiated a QUERI step 4/phase 1 pilot project using the precepts of the Chronic Care Model. Our improvement strategy relies upon electronic clinical reminders to provide decision support; audit/feedback as a clinical information system, and appropriate changes in delivery system design. These activities are complemented by academic detailing and social marketing interventions to achieve provider activation.
Our preliminary formative evaluation indicates the need to ensure leadership and team buy-in, address facility-specific barriers, refine the reminder, and address factors that contribute to inter-clinic variances in HIV testing rates. Preliminary unadjusted data from the first seven months of our program show 3–5 fold increases in the proportion of at-risk patients who are offered HIV testing at the VA sites (stations) where the pilot project has been undertaken; no change was seen at control stations.
This project demonstrates the early success of the application of the QUERI process to the development of a program to improve HIV testing rates. Preliminary unadjusted results show that the coordinated use of audit/feedback, provider activation, and organizational change can increase HIV testing rates for at-risk patients. We are refining our program prior to extending our work to a small-scale, multi-site evaluation (QUERI step 4/phase 2). We also plan to evaluate the durability/sustainability of the intervention effect, the costs of HIV testing, and the number of newly identified HIV-infected patients. Ultimately, we will evaluate this program in other geographically dispersed stations (QUERI step 4/phases 3 and 4).
PMCID: PMC2335105  PMID: 18353185
9.  Specificity of the Antibody Response to the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide and Conjugate Vaccines in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Adults 
Nonspecific antibodies, which are thought to be nonprotective, have been shown to contribute a substantial proportion of the measured concentration in the standardized immunoglobulin G (IgG) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for pneumococcal polysaccharide capsular antibodies. The presence of such antibodies in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected persons has not been evaluated. The amount of nonspecific antibodies is proportional to the reduction in IgG antibody concentration that occurs with serum absorption with the heterologous polysaccharide 22F. We measured the amount of nonspecific antibodies before and after vaccination with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV; n = 33) or the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV; n = 34) in HIV-infected adults with CD4 counts of ≥200 cells/mm3. Blood was drawn before and 2 months after vaccination. For prevaccination sera, we found a substantial amount of nonspecific antibodies for serotypes 4, 6B, 9V, and 23F (23 to 47% of measured IgG concentration), but not for serotype 14. There tended to be proportionately less nonspecific antibodies in postvaccine sera than prevaccine sera for PCV, but not for PPV. Subjects with a low HIV viral load (≤400 copies/ml) had proportionately more nonspecific antibodies than those with higher viral load before and after both vaccines. After 22F absorption, the geometric mean concentrations of antibodies were significantly higher post-PCV than post-PPV for the high viral load group for all five serotypes, but for no serotypes in the low viral load group. These findings confirm that absorption with a heterologous pneumococcal polysaccharide (e.g., 22F) is necessary to remove nonspecific antibodies in a standardized IgG ELISA for pneumococcal capsular antibodies in HIV-infected adults.
PMCID: PMC321324  PMID: 14715560
10.  HIV-related Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia in Older Patients Hospitalized in the Early HAART Era 
To determine whether older age continues to influence patterns of care and in-hospital mortality for hospitalized persons with HIV-related Pneumocustis carinii pneumonia (PCP), as determined in our prior study from the 1980s.
Retrospective chart review.
Patients (1,861) with HIV-related PCP at 78 hospitals in 8 cities from 1995 to 1997.
Medical record notation of possible HIV infection; alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient; CD4 lymphocyte count; presence or absence of wasting; timely use of anti-PCP medications; in-hospital mortality.
Compared to younger patients, patients ≥50 years of age were less likely to have HIV mentioned in their progress notes (70% vs 82%, P < .001), have mild or moderately severe PCP cases at admission (89% vs 96%, P < .002), receive anti-PCP medications within the first 2 days of hospitalization (86% vs 93%, P <.002), and survive hospitalization (82% vs 90%, P < .003). However, age was not a significant predicator of mortality after adjustment for severity of PCP and timeliness of therapy.
While inpatient PCP mortality has improved by 50% in the past decade, 2-fold age-related mortality differences persist. As in the 1980s, these differences are associated with lower rates of recognition of HIV, increased severity of illenss at admission, and delays in initiation of PCP-specific treatments among older individuals—factors suggestive of delayed recognition of HIV infection, pneumonia, and PCP, respectively. Continued vigilance for the possibility of HIV and HIV-related PCP among persons ≥50 years of age who present with new pulmonary symptoms should be encouraged.
PMCID: PMC1495267  PMID: 11556938
HIV; Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia; age; quality of care; outcomes

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