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author:("Butt, adee A.")
Journal of viral hepatitis  2012;19(11):792-800.
Though health-related quality of life (HRQOL) is diminished in HCV/HIV, the relationship between virologic response or maintenance therapy with HRQOL in this population is unknown. ACTG 5178 was a phase 2, randomized trial, with 3 steps: Step 1: all subjects received PEG-IFN/ribavirin (P/R) for 12 weeks. Step 2: subjects who failed to achieve early viral response (EVR) were randomized to PEG-IFN or observational control for an additional 72 weeks. Step 3: subjects with EVR from Step 1 continued on P/R for a total of 72 weeks with 24 weeks follow-up off therapy. HRQOL, symptom distress and depression levels were measured at multiple time points. In Step 1 (n=329), there was a significant decline in HRQOL in all dimensions. In Step 3 (n=169), the overall HRQOL and 3 of its 8 dimensions (general health, role function and pain score) were increased, and achievement of SVR was associated with increased general health and cognitive function. In the Step 2 group (n=85), there was no significant change in HRQOL and no significant difference between groups (PEG-IFN vs. observational control). There was a significant decline in HRQOL during the initial 12 weeks of therapy. Thereafter the HRQOL profile differed for subjects with EVR vs. without EVR. Maintenance therapy with PEG-IFN had no impact on the HRQOL.
PMCID: PMC3468910  PMID: 23043386
HCV; HIV; confection; treatment; health related quality of life
2.  Impact of Peginterferon Alpha and Ribavirin Treatment on Lipid Profiles and Insulin Resistance in Hepatitis C Virus/HIV–Coinfected Persons: The AIDS Clinical Trials Group A5178 Study 
Peginterferon and ribavirin can significantly affect lipid profile and insulin resistance (IR) in hepatitis C virus/human immunodeficiency virus–coinfected persons. Although the lipid profile returns to near pretreatment levels after completion of treatment, our data suggest persistent modest improvement in IR with treatment.
Background. The effect of peginterferon alpha/ribavirin (PEG-IFN/RBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) clearance on lipid and insulin resistance (IR) profiles in HCV/human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) coinfection is unknown.
Methods. We measured fasting total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C), high-density lipoproteins (HDL-C), triglycerides (TG), glucose, and insulin at defined intervals in the A5178 study (N = 329), a prospective treatment trial in HCV/HIV coinfection. Changes from baseline and the relation between baseline values of these variables to sustained virologic response (SVR) were determined.
Results. Of 182 subjects with metabolic data, 98 achieved early virologic response (EVR) and continued PEG-IFN/RBV. Among those, median pretreatment HCV RNA was 6.6 log10 IU/mL; 73% had HCV genotype 1. Median pretreatment TC was 176 mg/dL (interquartile range [IQR],150–205]; median LDL-C was 99 mg/dL (IQR, 79–123); median HDL-C was 40 mg/dL (IQR, 31–47); and median TG was 147 mg/dL (IQR, 101–221). Median homeostasis model assessment of IR (HOMA-IR) was 3.3 (IQR, 1.7–5.3). The EVRs demonstrated a decline in TC, LDL-C, and HDL-C, whereas TG increased on treatment but returned to near baseline 24 weeks after end of treatment (EOT). The HOMA-IR decline from entry to 24 weeks after EOT was significant among non–sustained virologic responders and nonsignificant among sustained virologic responders; this difference was offset after adjusting for higher HOMA-IR at baseline among the former. Among all 182 subjects, entry LDL-C was associated with SVR in a joint logistic model adjusted for HCV genotype, race, and prior IFN (odds ratio, 1.17 per 10 mg/dL increase; 95% confidence interval, 1.03–1.32), but TC, HDL, TG, and IR were not.
Conclusions. Peginterferon alpha and RBV can significantly affect lipid profile and IR in HCV/HIV–coinfected persons. Although the lipid profile returns to near pretreatment levels after completion of treatment, our data suggest persistent modest improvement in IR with treatment.
Clinical Trials Registration. NCT00078403.
PMCID: PMC3491848  PMID: 22563020
3.  Comorbid diabetes and the risk of progressive chronic kidney disease in HIV-infected adults: Data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
Approximately 15% of HIV-infected individuals have comorbid diabetes. Studies suggest that HIV and diabetes have an additive effect on chronic kidney (CKD) progression; however, this observation may be confounded by differences in traditional CKD risk factors.
We studied a national cohort of HIV-infected and matched HIV-uninfected individuals who received care through the Veterans Healthcare Administration. Subjects were divided into four groups based on baseline HIV and diabetes status, and the rate of progression to an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) < 45ml/min/1.73m2 was compared using Cox-proportional hazards modeling to adjust for CKD risk factors.
31,072 veterans with baseline eGFR ≥ 45ml/min/1.73m2 (10,626 with HIV only, 5,088 with diabetes only, and 1,796 with both) were followed for a median of 5 years. Mean baseline eGFR was 94ml/min/1.73m2, and 7% progressed to an eGFR < 45ml/min/1.73m2. Compared to those without HIV or diabetes, the relative rate of progression was increased in individuals with diabetes only [adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 2.48; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.19–2.80], HIV only [HR 2.80, 95% CI 2.50–3.15], and both HIV and diabetes [HR 4.47, 95% CI 3.87–5.17].
Compared to patients with only HIV or diabetes, patients with both diagnoses are at significantly increased risk of progressive CKD even after adjusting for traditional CKD risk factors. Future studies should evaluate the relative contribution of complex comorbidities and accompanying polypharmacy to the risk of CKD in HIV-infected individuals, and prospectively investigate the use of cART, glycemic control, and adjunctive therapy to delay CKD progression.
PMCID: PMC3392432  PMID: 22592587
non-AIDS complications; HIV; chronic kidney disease; diabetes; risk factors
4.  HIV Status, Burden of Comorbid Disease, and Biomarkers of Inflammation, Altered Coagulation, and Monocyte Activation 
We investigated the association between human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and prevalence of elevated biomarkers of inflammation, altered coagulation, and monocyte activation in a cohort of HIV-infected and uninfected veterans who had a comparable burden of comorbid conditions.
Background. Biomarkers of inflammation, altered coagulation, and monocyte activation are associated with mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the general population and among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected people. We compared biomarkers for inflammation, altered coagulation, and monocyte activation between HIV-infected and uninfected people in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS).
Methods. Biomarkers of inflammation (interleukin-6 [IL-6]), altered coagulation (d-dimer), and monocyte activation (soluble CD14 [sCD14]) were measured in blood samples from 1525 HIV-infected and 843 uninfected VACS participants. Logistic regression was used to determine the association between HIV infection and prevalence of elevated (>75th percentile) biomarkers, adjusting for confounding comorbidities.
Results. HIV-infected veterans had less prevalent CVD, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, hazardous drinking, and renal disease, but more dyslipidemia, hepatitis C, and current smoking than uninfected veterans. Compared to uninfected veterans, HIV-infected veterans with HIV-1 RNA ≥500 copies/mL or CD4 count <200 cells/µL had a significantly higher prevalence of elevated IL-6 (odds ratio [OR], 1.54; 95% confidence interval [CI],1.14–2.09; OR, 2.25; 95% CI, 1.60–3.16, respectively) and d-dimer (OR, 1.97; 95% CI, 1.44–2.71, OR, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.22–2.32, respectively) after adjusting for comorbidities. HIV-infected veterans with a CD4 cell count <200 cells/µL had significantly higher prevalence of elevated sCD14 compared to uninfected veterans (OR, 2.60; 95% CI, 1.64–4.14). These associations still persisted after restricting the analysis to veterans without known confounding comorbid conditions.
Conclusions. These data suggest that ongoing HIV replication and immune depletion significantly contribute to increased prevalence of elevated biomarkers of inflammation, altered coagulation, and monocyte activation. This contribution is independent of and in addition to the substantial contribution from comorbid conditions.
PMCID: PMC3493182  PMID: 22534147
5.  Risk of Heart Failure With Human Immunodeficiency Virus in the Absence of Prior Diagnosis of Coronary Heart Disease 
Archives of internal medicine  2011;171(8):737-743.
Whether human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a risk factor for heart failure (HF) is not clear. The presence of coronary heart disease and alcohol consumption in this population may confound this association.
To determine whether HIV infection is a risk factor for incident HF, we conducted a population-based, retrospective cohort study of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected veterans enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC) and the 1999 Large Health Study of Veteran Enrollees (LHS) from January 1, 2000, to July 31, 2007.
There were 8486 participants (28.2% HIV-infected) enrolled in the VACS-VC who also participated in the 1999 LHS. During the median 7.3 years of follow-up, 286 incident HF events occurred. Age- and race/ethnicity–adjusted HF rates among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected veterans were 7.12 (95% confidence interval [CI],6.90-7.34) and 4.82 (95% CI, 4.72-4.91) per 1000 person-years, respectively. Compared with HIV-uninfected veterans, those who were HIV infected had an increased risk ofHF (adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.81; 95% CI, 1.39-2.36). This association persisted among veterans who did not have a coronary heart disease event or a diagnosis related to alcohol abuse or dependence before the incident HF event (adjusted HR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.29-2.98). Compared with HIV-uninfected veterans, those who were HIV infected with a baseline Human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) RNA level of 500 or more copies/mL had a higher risk of HF (adjusted HR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.57-3.32), while those with baseline and a recent HIV-1 RNA level less than 500 copies/mL did not (adjusted HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.64-1.89; P< .001 for comparison between high and low HIV-1 RNA groups).
Our data suggest that HIV infection is a risk factor for HF. Ongoing viral replication is associated with a higher risk of developing HF.
PMCID: PMC3687533  PMID: 21518940
6.  Do Patterns of Comorbidity Vary by HIV Status, Age, and HIV Severity? 
Patterns of comorbidity among persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are not well described. We compared comorbidity among veterans with and without HIV infection. The sample consisted of 33,420 HIV-infected veterans and 66,840 HIV-uninfected veterans. We identified and clustered 11 comorbid conditions using validated International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification codes. We defined multimorbidity as the presence of conditions in all clusters. Models restricted to HIV-infected veterans were adjusted for CD4 cell count and viral load. Comorbidity was common (prevalence, 60%–63%), and prevalence varied by HIV status. Differences remained when the veterans were stratified by age. In multivariable analyses, older HIV-infected veterans were more likely to have substance use disorder and multimorbidity. Renal, vascular, and pulmonary diseases were associated with CD4 cell count <200 cells/mm3; hypertension was associated with CD4 cell count >200 cells/mm3. Comorbidity is the rule, and multimorbidity is common among veterans with HIV infection. Patterns of comorbidity differ substantially by HIV status, age, and HIV severity. Primary care guidelines require adaptation for persons with HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3687553  PMID: 18190322
7.  Does an Index Composed of Clinical Data Reflect Effects of Inflammation, Coagulation, and Monocyte Activation on Mortality Among Those Aging With HIV? 
The Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) Index, based on age and 8 routine clinical tests, is strongly correlated with 3 biomarkers of inflammation: interleukin 6 (IL-6), D-dimer, and soluble CD14 (sCD14). After adjustment for the VACS Index, D-dimer and sCD14, but not IL-6, remain independently associated with mortality.
Background. When added to age, CD4 count and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) RNA alone (Restricted Index), hemoglobin, FIB-4 Index, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and estimated glomerular filtration rate improve prediction of mortality. Weighted and combined, these 7 routine clinical variables constitute the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) Index. Because nonroutine biomarkers of inflammation (interleukin 6 [IL-6]), coagulation (D-dimer), and monocyte activation (sCD14) also predict mortality, we test the association of these indices and biomarkers with each other and with mortality.
Methods. Samples from 1302 HIV-infected veterans on antiretroviral therapy were analyzed. Indices were calculated closest to date of collection. We calculated Spearman correlations stratified by HIV-1 RNA and HCV status and measured association with mortality using C statistics and net reclassification improvement (NRI).
Results. Of 1302 subjects, 915 had HIV-1 RNA <500 copies/mL and 154 died. The VACS Index was more correlated with IL-6, D-dimer, and sCD14 than the Restricted Index (P < .001). It was also more predictive of mortality (C statistic, 0.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], .72–.80) than any biomarker (C statistic, 0.66–0.70) or the Restricted Index (C statistic, 0.71; 95% CI, .67–.75). Compared to the Restricted Index alone, NRI resulted from incremental addition of VACS Index components (10%), D-dimer (7%), and sCD14 (4%), but not from IL-6 (0%).
Conclusions. Among HIV-infected individuals, independent of CD4, HIV-1 RNA, and age, hemoglobin and markers of liver and renal injury are associated with inflammation. Addition of D-dimer and sCD14, but not IL-6, improves the predictive accuracy of the VACS Index for mortality.
PMCID: PMC3297653  PMID: 22337823
8.  HIV as an Independent Risk Factor for Incident Lung Cancer 
AIDS (London, England)  2012;26(8):1017-1025.
PMCID: PMC3580210  PMID: 22382152
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); lung cancer; incidence; smoking; immunosuppression; non-AIDS defining malignancy
9.  Doxorubicin-loaded cholic acid-polyethyleneimine micelles for targeted delivery of antitumor drugs: synthesis, characterization, and evaluation of their in vitro cytotoxicity 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2012;7(1):687.
Doxorubicin-loaded micelles were prepared from a copolymer comprising cholic acid (CA) and polyethyleneimine (PEI) for the delivery of antitumor drugs. The CA-PEI copolymer was synthesized via pairing mediated by N,N’-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide and N-hydroxysuccinimide using dichloromethane as a solvent. Fourier transform infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance analyses were performed to verify the formation of an amide linkage between CA and PEI and doxorubicin localization into the copolymer. Dynamic light scattering and transmission electron microscopy studies revealed that the copolymer could self-assemble into micelles with a spherical morphology and an average diameter of <200 nm. The CA-PEI copolymer was also characterized by X-ray diffraction and differential scanning calorimetry. Doxorubicin-loaded micelles were prepared by dialysis method. A drug release study showed reduced drug release with escalating drug content. In a cytotoxicity assay using human colorectal adenocarcinoma (DLD-1) cells, the doxorubicin-loaded CA-PEI micelles exhibited better antitumor activity than that shown by doxorubicin. This is the first study on CA-PEI micelles as doxorubicin carriers, and this study demonstrated that they are promising candidates as carriers for sustained targeted antitumor drug delivery system.
PMCID: PMC3552841  PMID: 23270381
Micelles; Nanoparticles; Cholic acid; Polyethyleneimine; Doxorubicin
10.  Validating Smoking Data From the Veteran’s Affairs Health Factors Dataset, an Electronic Data Source 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2011;13(12):1233-1239.
We assessed smoking data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) electronic medical record (EMR) Health Factors dataset.
To assess the validity of the EMR Health Factors smoking data, we first created an algorithm to convert text entries into a 3-category smoking variable (never, former, and current). We compared this EMR smoking variable to 2 different sources of patient self-reported smoking survey data: (a) 6,816 HIV-infected and -uninfected participants in the 8-site Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS-8) and (b) a subset of 13,689 participants from the national VACS Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC), who also completed the 1999 Large Health Study (LHS) survey. Sensitivity, specificity, and kappa statistics were used to evaluate agreement of EMR Health Factors smoking data with self-report smoking data.
For the EMR Health Factors and VACS-8 comparison of current, former, and never smoking categories, the kappa statistic was .66. For EMR Health Factors and VACS-VC/LHS comparison of smoking, the kappa statistic was .61.
Based on kappa statistics, agreement between the EMR Health Factors and survey sources is substantial. Identification of current smokers nationally within the VHA can be used in future studies to track smoking status over time, to evaluate smoking interventions, and to adjust for smoking status in research. Our methodology may provide insights for other organizations seeking to use EMR data for accurate determination of smoking status.
PMCID: PMC3223583  PMID: 21911825
11.  FIB-4 index is associated with hepatocellular carcinoma risk in HIV-infected patients 
Chronic inflammation caused by hepatitis B virus infection, hepatitis C virus infection, and/or heavy alcohol use can lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and eventually hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). FIB-4 is an index score calculated from platelet count, alanine transaminase, aspartate transaminase, and age that predicts fibrosis and cirrhosis. We hypothesized that high FIB-4 would be associated with development of HCC in HIV-infected persons, who are at high risk due to high prevalence of viral hepatitis and alcohol consumption, and possibly due to HIV infection itself.
Using proportional hazards models, we tested this hypothesis among 22,980 HIV-infected men from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study. We identified incident HCC cases from the VA Central Cancer Registry.
During follow-up, there were 112 incident HCC diagnoses. The age-and race/ethnic group-adjusted HR was 4.2 (95% CI: 2.4, 7.4)for intermediate FIB-4 and 13.0 (95% CI: 7.2, 23.4) for high FIB-4, compared to low FIB-4. After further adjustment for enrollment year, CD4 count, HIV-1 RNA level, antiretroviral therapy use, hepatitis B and C virus infection, alcohol abuse/dependency, and diabetes, FIB-4 remained a strong, significant, independent risk factor for HCC. The multivariate-adjusted HR was 3.6 (95% CI: 2.1, 6.4) for intermediate FIB-4 and 9.6 (95% CI: 5.2, 17.4) for high FIB-4.
Calculated from routine, non-invasive laboratory tests, FIB-4 is a strong, independent HCC risk factor in HIV-infected patients.
FIB-4 might prove valuable as an easily measured index to identify those at highest risk for HCC, even prior to development of clinical cirrhosis.
PMCID: PMC3237927  PMID: 22028407
hepatocellular carcinoma; FIB-4; HIV; liver neoplasms; hepatic fibrosis
12.  A Comparison of Treatment Eligibility for Hepatitis C Virus in HCV-Monoinfected Versus HCV/HIV-Coinfected Persons in Electronically Retrieved Cohort of HCV-Infected Veterans 
Treatment rates for hepatitis C virus (HCV) are low in actual clinical settings. However, the proportion of patients eligible for treatment, especially among those coinfected with HIV, is not well known. Our aim was to determine and compare the rates for HCV treatment eligibility among HCV and HCV-HIV-coinfected persons. We assembled a national cohort of HCV-infected veterans in care from 1998–2003, using the VA National Patient Care Database for demographic/clinical information, the Pharmacy Benefits Management database for pharmacy records, and the Decision Support Systems database for laboratory data. We compared the HCV-monoinfected and HCV-HIV-coinfected subjects for treatment indications and eligibility using current treatment guidelines. Of the 27,452 subjects with HCV and 1225 with HCV-HIV coinfection, 74.0% and 84.6% had indications for therapy and among these, 43.9% of HCV-monoinfected and 28.4% of HCV-HIV-coinfected subjects were eligible for treatment. Anemia, decompensated liver disease (DLD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), recent alcohol abuse, and coronary artery disease were the most common contraindications in the HCV, and anemia, DLD, renal failure, recent drug abuse, and COPD in the HCV-HIV-coinfected group. Among those eligible for treatment, only 23% of the HCV-monoinfected and 15% of the HCV-HIV-coinfected subjects received any treatment for HCV. Most veterans with HCV are not eligible for treatment according to the current guidelines. Even for those who are eligible for treatment, only a minority is prescribed treatment. Several contraindications are modifiable and aggressive management of those may improve treatment prescription rates.
PMCID: PMC3719436  PMID: 21338329
13.  Validity of Diagnostic Codes and Liver-Related Laboratory Abnormalities to Identify Hepatic Decompensation Events in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
The absence of validated methods to identify hepatic decompensation in cohort studies has prevented a full understanding of the natural history of chronic liver diseases and impact of medications on this outcome. We determined the ability of diagnostic codes and liver-related laboratory abnormalities to identify hepatic decompensation events within the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS).
Medical records of patients with hepatic decompensation codes and/or laboratory abnormalities of liver dysfunction (total bilirubin ≥5.0 gm/dL, albumin ≤2.0 gm/dL, international normalized ratio ≥1.7) recorded one year before through six months after VACS entry were reviewed to identify decompensation events (i.e., ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, variceal hemorrhage, hepatic encephalopathy, hepatocellular carcinoma) at VACS enrollment. Positive predictive values (PPVs) of diagnostic codes, laboratory abnormalities, and their combinations for confirmed outcomes were determined.
Among 137 patients with a hepatic decompensation code and 197 with a laboratory abnormality, the diagnosis was confirmed in 57 (PPV, 42%; 95% CI, 33% – 50%) and 56 (PPV, 28%; 95% CI, 22% – 35%), respectively. The combination of any code plus laboratory abnormality increased PPV (64%; 95% CI, 47% - 79%). One inpatient or ≥2 outpatient diagnostic codes for ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, or variceal hemorrhage had high PPV (91%; 95% CI, 77% – 98%) for confirmed hepatic decompensation events.
An algorithm of 1 inpatient or ≥2 outpatient codes for ascites, peritonitis, or variceal hemorrhage has sufficiently high PPV for hepatic decompensation to enable its use for epidemiologic research in VACS. This algorithm may be applicable to other cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3131229  PMID: 21626605
hepatic decompensation; end-stage liver disease; epidemiologic methods; outcomes; validation studies
14.  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
15.  Extended Therapy With Pegylated Interferon and Weight-Based Ribavirin for HCV-HIV Coinfected Patients 
HIV Clinical Trials  2012;13(2):70-82.
It is unknown whether extended treatment with pegylated interferon (PEG) and weight-based ribavirin (WBR) results in higher rates of sustained virologic response (SVR) among HCV-HIV coinfected patients compared with standard duration therapy.
The study aimed to measure rates of SVR among coinfected patients who received extended therapy with PEG plus WBR.
HCV-HIV coinfected subjects were treated with PEG and WBR, and those who achieved early virologic response (EVR; ≥2 log decrease in HCV RNA from baseline or HCV RNA<600 IU/mL) at week 12 were eligible to continue treatment for 72 weeks. SVR (HCV RNA<60 IU/mL) was measured 24 weeks after treatment discontinuation. Predictors of SVR were assessed in simple and multivariate logistic regression.
A total of 329 subjects enrolled at 36 sites. Of 184 subjects who achieved EVR, 169 entered Step 3: 89% male, 52% White, 29% Black, and 71% HCV treatment naïve. The overall SVR rate was 27% (95% CI, 22%–32%) among all subjects, and 33% (95% CI, 27%–40%) among the 223 who were HCV treatment naïve. In exploratory analyses, among 120 treatment-naïve subjects who entered Step 3, the SVR rate was 62% (95% CI, 52%–70%). In this subgroup, predictors of SVR were HCV genotype 2 or 3 (P = .03), HCV RNA <800,000 IU/mL at study entry (P = .05), and achievement of complete EVR (HCV RNA<600 IU/mL at week 12; P < .0001).
Among all subjects, we observed a comparable overall SVR rate to prior studies of subjects treated for 48 weeks. Extended treatment with PEG and WBR may be beneficial to subsets of coinfected patients, specifically those who are treatment naïve and achieve complete EVR.
PMCID: PMC3367320  PMID: 22510354
extended therapy; HCV; HIV; weight-based ribavirin
16.  HIV Infection and Risk for Incident Pulmonary Diseases in the Combination Antiretroviral Therapy Era 
Rationale: In aging HIV-infected populations comorbid diseases are important determinants of morbidity and mortality. Pulmonary diseases have not been systematically assessed in the combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) era.
Objectives: To determine the incidence of pulmonary diseases in HIV-infected persons compared with HIV-uninfected persons.
Methods: We analyzed data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort, consisting of 33,420 HIV-infected veterans and 66,840 age, sex, race and ethnicity, and site-matched HIV-uninfected veterans. Using Poisson regression, incidence rates and adjusted incidence rate ratios were calculated to determine the association of HIV with pulmonary disease. The Virtual Cohort was merged with the 1999 Veterans Large Health Survey to adjust for self-reported smoking in a nested sample (14%).
Measurements and Main Results: Incident chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as pulmonary infections, were significantly more likely among HIV-infected patients compared with uninfected patients in adjusted analyses, although rates of asthma did not differ by HIV status. Bacterial pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were the two most common incident pulmonary diseases, whereas opportunistic pneumonias were less common. Absolute rates of most pulmonary diseases increased with age, although the relative differences between those with and without HIV infection were greatest in younger persons. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, as well as pulmonary infections, were less likely in those with lower HIV RNA levels and use of ART at baseline.
Conclusions: Pulmonary diseases among HIV-infected patients receiving care within the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in the combination ART era reflect a substantial burden of non–AIDS-defining and chronic conditions, many of which are associated with aging.
PMCID: PMC3266024  PMID: 20851926
HIV; respiratory tract diseases; lung diseases, obstructive; pneumonia; pneumonia, bacterial
17.  Association of Age and Comorbidity with Physical Function in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Patients: Results from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
AIDS Patient Care and STDs  2011;25(1):13-20.
HIV clinical care now involves prevention and treatment of age-associated comorbidity. Although physical function is an established correlate to comorbidity in older adults without HIV infection, its role in aging of HIV-infected adults is not well understood. To investigate this question we conducted cross-sectional analyses including linear regression models of physical function in 3227 HIV-infected and 3240 uninfected patients enrolled 2002–2006 in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study-8-site (VACS-8). Baseline self-reported physical function correlated with the Short Form-12 physical subscale (ρ = 0.74, p < 0.001), and predicted survival. Across the age groups decline in physical function per year was greater in HIV-infected patients (βcoef −0.25, p < 0.001) compared to uninfected patients (βcoef −0.08, p = 0.03). This difference, although statistically significant (p < 0.01), was small. Function in the average 50-year old HIV-infected subject was equivalent to the average 51.5-year-old uninfected subject. History of cardiovascular disease was a significant predictor of poor function, but the effect was similar across groups. Chronic pulmonary disease had a differential effect on function by HIV status (Δβcoef −3.5, p = 0.03). A 50-year-old HIV-infected subject with chronic pulmonary disease had the equivalent level of function as a 68.1-year-old uninfected subject with chronic pulmonary disease. We conclude that age-associated comorbidity affects physical function in HIV-infected patients, and may modify the effect of aging. Longitudinal research with markers of disease severity is needed to investigate loss of physical function with aging, and to develop age-specific HIV care guidelines.
PMCID: PMC3030913  PMID: 21214375
18.  Sustained Long-term Antiviral Maintenance Therapy in HCV/HIV Coinfected Patients (SLAM-C) 
HCV/HIV coinfection treatment is suboptimal with low SVR rates to standard therapies. A multicenter randomized clinical trial designed to assess the efficacy/safety of pegylated-interferon maintenance therapy was performed by the NIH-funded ACTG network.
HCV treatment naïve and non-responding interferon-experienced subjects with confirmed HCV and HIV, CD4>200 cells/mm3, and at least Stage 1 fibrosis were enrolled, and treated for 12 weeks with pegylated interferon alfa 2a 180 mcg/week (PEG) + weight-based ribavirin to determine response status. Non-responder subjects (failure to clear HCV RNA or achieve 2-log drop) underwent liver biopsy and were randomized to receive full dose PEG or observation only for 72 weeks. Paired biopsies were evaluated by a central pathologist.
330 subjects were enrolled; median age was 48 years; 43% White, 37% Black, non-Hispanic; 83% male; CD4+ 498 cells/mm3; 32% were interferon experienced; 74% had entry HIV RNA<50 cp/ml. EVR was observed in 55.9% and 42.5% achieved cEVR. A planned interim analysis of occurred when 84 subjects were randomized. With data on 40 paired biopsies available, a safety monitoring board stopped the trial due to lack of fibrosis progression (median = 0 Metavir units/year) in the observation arm.
Lack of fibrotic progression in the control arm was unexpected, and may represent a short-term PEG/ribavirin therapy effect, high levels of HIV viral suppression and use of antiretroviral regimens that may be less toxic than prior generations of therapy.
PMCID: PMC3017670  PMID: 20921898
HCV; HIV; Maintenance; Racial Disparity; Fibrosis
19.  Decreased Serum Antibody Responses to Recombinant Pneumocystis Antigens in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Current Smokers▿  
Serologic studies can provide important insights into the epidemiology and transmission of Pneumocystis jirovecii. Exposure to P. jirovecii can be assessed by serum antibody responses to recombinant antigens from the major surface glycoprotein (MsgC), although factors that influence the magnitude of the antibody response are incompletely understood. We determined the magnitudes of antibody responses to P. jirovecii in comparison to adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in HIV-infected and uninfected patients and identified predictors associated with the magnitude of the response. We performed a cross-sectional analysis using serum samples and data from 153 HIV-positive and 92 HIV-negative subjects enrolled in a feasibility study of the Veterans Aging Cohort 5 Site Study (VACS 5). Antibodies were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Independent predictors of antibody responses were determined using multivariate Tobit regression models. The results showed that serum antibody responses to P. jirovecii MsgC fragments were significantly and independently decreased in current smokers. Antibodies to P. jirovecii also tended to be lower with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hazardous alcohol use, injection drug use, and HIV infection, although these results were not statistically significant. These results were specific to P. jirovecii and did not correlate with adenovirus. Antibody responses to RSV were in the inverse direction. Thus, current smoking was independently associated with decreased P. jirovecii antibody responses. Whether smoking exerts an immunosuppressive effect that affects the P. jirovecii antibody response, colonization, or subsequent risk for disease is unclear; prospective, longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate these findings further.
PMCID: PMC3067379  PMID: 21191078
20.  Improving Noninvasive Methods of Assessing Liver Fibrosis Using an Ordinal Regression Index 
Background & Aims
Liver fibrosis is a significant concern for patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV)/HIV co-infection. Fibrosis staging by biopsy is accurate but costly and invasive. Several fibrosis prediction models utilizing non-invasive biomarkers have been developed but are suboptimal in co-infected patients. We compared results from different staging models and ordinal regression with biopsy data.
Data from the Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Group protocol A5178 were used to evaluate 5 models of fibrosis staging; areas under receiver-operator characteristic curves (AUROC) were assessed. Individual covariates were assessed with univariable regression then entered into an ordinal logistic regression model from which a stage-wise index was developed.
Data from 173 patients were evaluated; 85% were on anti-retroviral therapy, 31.2% had severe fibrosis (F3/F4) and 14% had cirrhosis (F4). Differences in CD4+ cell and platelets counts and international normalized ratio values were observed between those with and without F3/F4. Among existing models, the FIB-4 index performed best, with 88% specificity for F4 and >86% negative predictive values for F3/F4, although AUROC values were low (0.56±0.03 for F3/F4). Using patients’ demographic, clinical, and laboratory data, the ordinal regression model outperformed others, with AUROC = 0.85 (SE 0.03) for predicting stage F3/F4 and 0.89 (SE 0.05) for stage 3 alone.
Current noninvasive methods of fibrosis assessment have poor discriminatory capacity in HCV/HIV co-infected patients. Ordinal regression analysis outperformed other non-invasive fibrosis prediction models. Longitudinal studies with paired biopsies will assist in refining the ordinal regression index.
PMCID: PMC3159915  PMID: 19268724
Noninvasive fibrosis assessment; HCV/HIV coinfection; Applied ordinal regression
21.  Hepatitis C treatment completion rates in routine clinical care 
Treatment completion rates for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in clinical practice settings are unknown.
We assembled a national cohort of HCV-infected veterans-in-care from 1998 to 2003, using the VA National Patient Care Database for demographical/clinical information, Pharmacy Benefits Management database for pharmacy records and the Decision Support Systems database for laboratory data. We used logistic regression to determine the factors predicting treatment non-completion for HCV.
We identified 134 934 HCV-infected veterans of whom 16 043 [11.9%; 95% confidence interval (CI) 11.7–12.1] were prescribed treatment for HCV. Among the 10 641 veterans with > 1 year of follow-up, 2396 (22.5%; 95% CI 21.7–23.3) completed a 48-week course. Non-completers were more likely to have pre-treatment anaemia, coronary artery disease, depression, substance abuse, used standard interferon, higher comorbidity count, and been treated at a low-volume treatment site (defined as sites initiating HCV treatment for < 200 individuals). In multivariable analyses, treatment completion was positively associated with pegylated interferon use [odds ratio (OR) 1.59, 95% CI 1.40–1.80] and site treatment volume (OR 1.87, 95% CI 1.56–2.24 for sites initiating treatment for > 200 individuals) and negatively associated with pre-treatment anaemia (OR 0.68, 95% CI 0.58–0.80 for haemoglobin 10–14 g/dl) and depression (OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.69–0.89). Human immunodeficiency virus coinfection and minority race were not associated with failing to complete treatment.
Among veterans-in-care with known HCV, 11.9% initiate therapy of whom 22.5% (one in 56 with known HCV infection) complete a 48-week course of treatment. Higher completion rates among higher volume treatment sites suggest that some factors associated with non-completion (pre-treatment depression and anaemia), may be modifiable with experience.
PMCID: PMC3132089  PMID: 19889081
anaemia; depression; hepatitis C; HIV infection; pegylated interferon; practice variation; treatment completion
22.  Depression Symptoms and Treatment Among HIV Infected and Uninfected Veterans 
AIDS and behavior  2008;14(2):272-279.
Depression is one of the most common comorbid conditions affecting persons with HIV. We compared depressive symptoms and depression treatment using data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a prospective cohort of HIV-infected and uninfected subjects. We identified subjects with a Patient Health Questionnaire score of 10 or greater. Treatment was defined as prescription of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or mental health counseling. Overall, 16% of 4,480 subjects had depressive symptoms, and HIV-infected patients were more likely to have had depressive symptoms (OR = 1.38, 95% CI = 1.18, 1.62). Geographic site of care and having a mental health provider at the clinic was associated with treatment. In multivariable models restricted to 732 patients with depressive symptoms, receipt of depression treatment did not differ by HIV status (Adjusted OR = 1.11, 95% CI = 0.80, 1.54). Non-Hispanic whites were more likely to receive treatment (Adjusted OR = 2.09, 95% CI 1.04, 4.24). Primary care and HIV providers were equally unlikely to treat active depressive symptoms. Treatment variation by race, site, and availability of a mental health provider, suggests targets for intervention.
PMCID: PMC3125603  PMID: 18648927
HIV-infection; Depression; Psychiatric status rating scales; Anti-depressive agents
It is unknown whether smoking confers similar mortality risk in HIV-positive as in HIV-negative patients. We compared overall mortality stratified by HIV and smoking of 1,034 HIV-positive block-matched to 739 HIV-negative veterans, enrolled 2001–2002 in the Veterans Aging Cohort 5 Site Study. Adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRR) for mortality were calculated using Poisson regression. Mortality was significantly increased in HIV-positive veterans according to both smoking status and pack-years in unadjusted and adjusted analyses (adjusted IRR 2.31, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.53–3.49 for HIV-positive current smokers and IRR 1.32, 95% CI 0.67–2.61 for HIV-negative current smokers). Comorbid diseases were also significantly increased according to smoking status and pack-years. Current smoking is associated with poor outcomes; even lower levels of exposure appear to be detrimental in HIV-infected veterans. These findings support the need for improvements in smoking cessation and for studies of mechanisms and diseases underlying increased mortality in smokers with HIV.
PMCID: PMC3118467  PMID: 19537953
24.  Hepatitis C Virus Infection and the Risk of Coronary Disease 
The association between hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and coronary artery disease (CAD) is controversial. We conducted this study to determine and quantify this association.
We used an established, national, observational cohort of all HCV-infected veterans receiving care at all Veterans Affairs facilities, the Electronically Retrieved Cohort of HCV Infected Veterans, to identify HCV-infected subjects and HCV-uninfected control subjects. We used the Cox proportional-hazards model to determine the risk of CAD among HCV-infected subjects and control subjects.
We identified 82,083 HCV-infected and 89,582 HCV-uninfected subjects. HCV-infected subjects were less likely to have hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes but were more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and to have renal failure and anemia. HCV-infected subjects had lower mean (± standard deviation) total plasma cholesterol (175 ± 40.8 mg/dL vs. 198 ± 41.0 mg/dL), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (102 ± 36.8 mg/dL vs. 119 ± 38.2 mg/dL), and triglyceride (144 ± 119 mg/dL vs. 179 ± 151 mg/dL) levels, compared with HCV-uninfected subjects. In multivariable analysis, HCV infection was associated with a higher risk of CAD (hazard ratio, 1.25; 95% confidence interval, 1.20–1.30; P < .001 for all comparisons). Traditional risk factors (age, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia) were associated with a higher risk of CAD in both groups, whereas minority race and female sex were associated with a lower risk of CAD.
HCV-infected persons are younger and have lower lipid levels and a lower prevalence of hypertension. Despite a favorable risk profile, HCV infection is associated with a higher risk of CAD after adjustment for traditional risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3077953  PMID: 19508169
25.  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

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