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1.  Agreement Between Electronic Medical Record-based and Self-Administered Pain Numeric Rating Scale: Clinical and Research Implications 
Medical care  2013;51(3):245-250.
Pain screening may improve the quality of care by identifying patients in need of further assessment and management. Many healthcare systems use the numeric rating scale (NRS) for pain screening, and record the score in the patients’ electronic medical record (EMR).
Determine level of agreement between EMR and patient survey NRS, and whether discrepancies vary by demographic and clinical characteristics.
We linked survey data from a sample of Veterans receiving care in eight Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities, to EMR data including an NRS collected on the day of the survey in order to compare responses to the NRS question from these two sources. We assessed correlation, agreement on clinical cut-points (e.g. severe), and, using the survey as the gold standard, whether patient characteristics were associated with a discrepancy on moderate-severe pain.
A total of 1,643 participants had a survey and EMR NRS score on the same day. The correlation was 0.56 (95% CI 0.52/0.59), but the mean EMR score was significantly lower than the survey score (1.72 vs. 2.79; p<0.0001). Agreement was moderate (kappa=0.35). Characteristics associated with a increased odds of a discrepancy included: diabetes (adjusted odds ratio (AOR)=1.48), post traumatic stress disorder (AOR=1.59), major depressive disorder (AOR=1.81), other race vs. white (AOR=2.29), and facility in which care was received.
The underestimation of pain using EMR data, especially clinically actionable levels of pain, has important clinical and research implications. Improving the quality of pain care may require better screening.
PMCID: PMC3572341  PMID: 23222528
Veterans; pain measurement; electronic medical records
2.  Unhealthy Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use are Associated with Decreased Quality of HIV Care 
HIV-infected patients with substance use experience suboptimal health outcomes, possibly to due to variations in care.
To assess the association between substance use and the quality of HIV care (QOC) received.
Research Design
Retrospective cohort study.
HIV-infected patients enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study.
We collected self-report substance use data and abstracted 9 HIV quality indicators (QIs) from medical records. Independent variables were unhealthy alcohol use (AUDIT-C score ≥4) and illicit drug use (self-report of stimulants, opioids, or injection drug use in past year). Main outcome was the percentage of QIs received, if eligible. We estimated associations between substance use and QOC using multivariable linear regression.
The majority of the 3,410 patients were male (97.4%) and Black (67.0%) with a mean age of 49.1 years (SD 8.8). Overall, 25.8% reported unhealthy alcohol use, 22% illicit drug use, and participants received 81.5% (SD=18.9) of QIs. The mean percentage of QIs received was lower for those with unhealthy alcohol use vs. not (59.3% vs. 70.0%, p<.001) and those using illicit drugs vs. not (57.8% vs. 70.7%, p<.001). In multivariable models, unhealthy alcohol use (adjusted β −2.74; 95% CI −4.23, −1.25) and illicit drug use (adjusted β −3.51 95% CI −4.99, −2.02) remained inversely associated with the percentage of QIs received.
Though the overall QOC for these HIV-infected Veteran patients was high, gaps persist for those with unhealthy alcohol and illicit drug use. Interventions that address substance use in HIV-infected patients may improve the QOC received.
PMCID: PMC3460799  PMID: 22820808
Alcohol; Quality of Health Care; HIV; Quality Indicators; Health Care; Opioid-Related Disorders
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.  Sex Disparities in Overall Burden of Disease Among HIV-Infected Individuals in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2013;28(Suppl 2):577-582.
Whether sex disparities exist in overall burden of disease among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals in the Veterans Affairs healthcare system (VA) is unknown.
To determine whether sex differences exist in overall burden of disease after 1 year of combined antiretroviral therapy (ART) among HIV-infected individuals in VA.
Retrospective cohort study.
Among patients in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC), all ART-naïve HIV-infected Veterans who received VA-based HIV care between 1996 and 2009.
Overall burden of disease was measured using the VACS Index, an index that incorporates HIV (e.g. CD4 cell count) and non-HIV biomarkers (e.g. hemoglobin) and is highly predictive of all-cause mortality. Possible scores range from 0 to 164, although scores typically range from 0 to 50 for 80 % of patients in VACS-VC. A higher score indicates greater burden of disease (each additional five points indicates approximately 20 % increased 5-year mortality risk). ART adherence was measured using pharmacy data.
Complete data were available for 227 women and 8,073 men. At ART initiation, compared with men, women were younger and more likely to be Black, less likely to have liver dysfunction, but more likely to have lower hemoglobin levels. Median VACS Index scores changed from ART initiation to 1 year after ART initiation: women’s scores went from 41 to 28 for women (13 point improvement) and men’s from 42 to 27 for men (15 point improvement). In multivariable regression, women had 3.6 point worse scores than men after 1 year on ART (p = 0.002); this difference decreased to 3.2 points after adjusting for adherence (p = 0.004).
In VA, compared to men, women experienced less improvement in overall burden of disease after 1 year of HIV treatment. Further study is needed to elucidate the modifiable factors that may explain this disparity.
PMCID: PMC3695278  PMID: 23807068
women; Veterans; HIV; health care disparities; burden of illness
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
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.  Adherence, virological and immunological outcomes for HIV-infected veterans starting combination antiretroviral therapies 
AIDS (London, England)  2007;21(12):1579-1589.
We aimed to determine adherence, virological, and immunological outcomes one year after starting a first combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimen.
Observational; synthesis of administrative, laboratory, and pharmacy data. Antiretroviral regimens were divided into efavirenz, nevirapine, boosted protease inhibitor (PI), and single PI categories. Propensity scores were used to control for confounding by treatment assignment. Adherence was estimated from pharmacy refill records.
Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, all sites.
HIV-infected individuals starting combination ART with a low likelihood of previous antiretroviral exposure.
The proportion of antiretroviral prescriptions filled as prescribed, a change in log HIV-RNA, the proportion with log HIV-RNA viral suppression, a change in CD4 cell count.
A total of 6394 individuals unlikely to have previous antiretroviral exposure started combination ART between 1996 and 2004, and were eligible for analysis. Adherence overall was low (63% of prescriptions filled as prescribed), and adherence with efavirenz (67%) and nevirapine (65%) regimens was significantly greater than adherence with boosted PI (59%) or single PI (61%) regimens (P < 0.001). Efavirenz regimens were more likely to suppress HIV-RNA at one year (74%) compared with nevirapine (62%), boosted PI (63%), or single PI (53%) regimens (all P < 0.001), and this superiority was maintained when analyses were adjusted for baseline clinical characteristics and propensity for treatment assignment. Efavirenz also yielded more favorable immunological outcomes.
HIV-infected individuals initiating their first combination ART using an efavirenz-based regimen had improved virological and immunological outcomes and greater adherence levels.
PMCID: PMC3460378  PMID: 17630553
Adherence; resistance; ART; Veterans Affairs Healthcare System
13.  Food Insecurity is Associated with Poor Virologic Response among HIV-Infected Patients Receiving Antiretroviral Medications 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2011;26(9):1012-1018.
Food insecurity negatively impacts HIV disease outcomes in international settings. No large scale U.S. studies have investigated the association between food insecurity and severity of HIV disease or the mechanism of this possible association. The objective of this study was to examine the impact of food insecurity on HIV disease outcomes in a large cohort of HIV-infected patients receiving antiretroviral medications.
This is a cross-sectional study.
Participants were HIV-infected patients enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study between 2002–2008 who were receiving antiretroviral medications.
Participants reporting “concern about having enough food for you or your family in the past 30 days” were defined as food insecure. Using multivariable logistic regression, we explored the association between food insecurity and both low CD4 counts (<200 cells/μL) and unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA (>500 copies/mL). We then performed mediation analysis to examine whether antiretroviral adherence or body mass index mediates the observed associations.
Among 2353 HIV-infected participants receiving antiretroviral medications, 24% reported food insecurity. In adjusted analyses, food insecure participants were more likely to have an unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA (AOR 1.37, 95% CI 1.09, 1.73) compared to food secure participants. Mediation analysis revealed that neither antiretroviral medication adherence nor body mass index contributes to the association between food insecurity and unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA. Food insecurity was not independently associated with low CD4 counts.
Among HIV-infected participants receiving antiretroviral medications, food insecurity is associated with unsuppressed viral load and may render treatment less effective. Longitudinal studies are needed to test the potential causal association between food insecurity, lack of virologic suppression, and additional HIV outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3157515  PMID: 21573882
food insecurity; HIV; patients; antiretrovirals
14.  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
15.  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
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
18.  Cystatin C, Albuminuria, and 5-Year All-Cause Mortality in HIV-Infected Persons 
Compared with controls, HIV-infected persons have a greater prevalence of kidney disease as assessed by high levels of cystatin C and albuminuria, but not as assessed by creatinine level. However, the clinical importance of elevated cystatin C and albuminuria in the HIV-infected population has not been studied.
Study Design
We conducted an observational cohort study to determine the association of kidney disease (measured by albuminuria, cystatin C, and serum creatinine) with mortality.
Setting & Participants
922 HIV-infected persons enrolled in the FRAM (Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV infection) study.
Serum cystatin C and serum creatinine were used to estimate glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Albuminuria was defined as a positive urine dipstick (≥1+) or a urine albumin-creatinine ratio > 30 mg/g.
5-year mortality
At baseline, reduced kidney function (eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2) or albuminuria was present in 28% of participants. After five years of follow-up, mortality was 48% among those with both eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2 and albuminuria, 23% in those with eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2 alone, 20% in those with albuminuria alone, and 9% in those with neither condition. After multivariable adjustment for demographics, cardiovascular risk factors, HIV-related factors, and inflammatory markers, eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2 and albuminuria were associated with nearly a twofold increase in mortality, whereas eGFRSCr <60 mL/min/1.73m2 did not appear to have any substantial association with mortality. Together, eGFRSCysC <60 mL/min/1.73m2 and albuminuria accounted for 17% of the population-level attributable risk for mortality.
Vital status was unknown in 261 participants from the original cohort.
Kidney disease marked by albuminuria or increased cystatin C levels appears to be an important risk factor for mortality in HIV-infected individuals. A substantial proportion of this risk may be unrecognized because of the current reliance on serum creatinine to estimate kidney function in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3164880  PMID: 20709438
kidney disease; mortality; HIV infection
19.  Illicit drug use and HIV treatment outcomes in a US cohort 
AIDS (London, England)  2008;22(3):357-365.
To determine the prevalence of illicit drug use and the impact on HIV treatment.
Multivariable regression of cross-sectional data from 1163 HIV-infected and 294 controls from the Study of Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV Infection (FRAM).
An analysis of (1) prevalence of specific illicit drug use (ever, current), (2) being on HAART among those with an indication and (3) current HIV RNA and CD4 cell count among HAART users.
Median age was 42 years, approximately 50% were non-Caucasian and 33% were women. Eighty-six percent of HIV-infected and 67% of controls reported ever using illicit drugs (P <0.0001); 28% of HIV-infected and 16% of controls reported current use (P = 0.0001). In adjusted models, current cocaine use and past heroin use were associated with not currently being on HAART. Among HAART users, those reporting past heroin use were as likely to have an undetectable HIV viral load as those who had never used heroin. Current and past cocaine use and current heroin use was associated with lower odds of undetectable HIV RNA. Past amphetamine use was associated with having an undetectable HIV. Similar results were seen for CD4 lymphocyte counts.
Illicit drug use in the US is common, although far fewer report current use than past use. Among HIV-infected patients, understanding of the type of illicit drugs used and whether drug use was in the past or ongoing is important, because of their differential effects on HIV treatment outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3189479  PMID: 18195562
amphetamines; cocaine; heroin; HIV; street drugs; viral load
20.  Association of Upper Trunk and Visceral Adipose Tissue Volume With Insulin Resistance in Control and HIV-Infected Subjects in the FRAM Study 
Visceral obesity is associated with insulin resistance, but the association of other regional adipose depots with insulin resistance is not understood. In HIV infection, buffalo hump (upper trunk fat) is associated, but the association of upper trunk fat with insulin resistance has not been examined in controls. To determine the independent association of adipose depots other than visceral with insulin resistance, we performed a cross-sectional analysis of controls and HIV-infected subjects in the Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV Infection (FRAM) study, who had measurements of glucose, insulin, and adipose tissue volumes by whole-body magnetic resonance imaging. We studied 926 HIV-positive persons from 16 academic medical center clinics and trials units with demographic characteristics representative of US patients with HIV infection and 258 FRAM controls from the population-based Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. We measured visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) volume in the legs, arms, lower trunk (back and abdomen), and upper trunk (back and chest) and assessed their association with the homeostasis model of assessment (HOMA) and HOMA >4 by stepwise multivariable analysis. The prevalence of HOMA >4 as a marker of insulin resistance was 28% among controls compared with 37% among HIV-infected subjects (P = 0.005). Among controls, those in the highest tertile of upper trunk SAT volume had an odds ratio (OR) of 9.0 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.4 to 34; P = 0.001) for having HOMA >4 compared with the lowest tertile, whereas in HIV-positive subjects, the OR was lower (OR = 2.09, 95% CI: 1.36 to 3.19; P = 0.001). Among controls, the highest tertile of VAT volume had an OR of 12.1 (95% CI: 3.2 to 46; P = 0.0002) of having HOMA >4 compared with the lowest tertile, whereas in HIV-positive subjects, the OR was 3.12 (95% CI: 2.0 to 4.8; P < 0.0001). After adjusting for VAT and upper trunk SAT, the association of other SAT depots with HOMA >4 did not reach statistical significance. Thus, VAT and upper trunk SAT are independently associated with insulin resistance in controls and in HIV-infected persons.
PMCID: PMC3164883  PMID: 18167644
buffalo hump; fat distribution; insulin resistance; lipodystrophy; visceral obesity
21.  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
22.  Time to Depression Treatment in Primary Care Among HIV-infected and Uninfected Veterans 
Multiple factors, including patient characteristics, competing demands, and clinic type, impact delivery of depression treatment in primary care.
Assess whether depression severity and HIV serostatus have a differential effect on time to depression treatment among depressed patients receiving primary care at Infectious Disease or General Medicine clinics.
Multicenter prospective cohort, (Veterans Aging Cohort Study), comparing HIV-infected to uninfected patients.
The total cohort consisted of 3,239 HIV-infected and 3,227 uninfected patients. Study inclusion criteria were untreated depressive symptoms, based on a Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) score of greater than 9, and no antidepressants or mental health visits in the 90 days prior to PHQ-9 assessment. Treatment was defined as antidepressant receipt or mental health visit within 90 days following PHQ-9 assessment. Depression severity based on PHQ-9 scores was defined as mild-moderate (greater than 9 to 19) and severe (20 or greater). Kaplan-Meier curves were used to estimate time to treatment by depression severity and HIV serostatus. Cox proportional hazards methods adjusted for covariates were used.
Overall, 718 (11%) of the cohort met inclusion criteria, 258 (36%) of whom received treatment. Median time to treatment was 7 days [95% confidence interval (CI) = 4, 13] and was shortest for severely depressed HIV-infected patients (0.5 days; 95% CI = 0.5, 6, p = 0.04). Compared to mildly-moderately depressed uninfected patients, severely depressed HIV-infected patients were significantly more likely to receive treatment [adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 1.67, 95% CI = 1.07, 2.60), whereas mildly-moderately depressed HIV-infected patients (adjusted HR 1.10, 95% CI = 0.79, 1.52) and severely depressed uninfected patients (adjusted HR 0.93, 95% CI = 0.60, 1.44) were not.
In this large cohort, time to primary care treatment of depression was shortest among severely depressed HIV-infected patients. Regardless of HIV serostatus, if depression was not treated on the assessment day, then it was unlikely to be treated within a 90-day period, leading to the majority of depression being untreated.
PMCID: PMC2881956  PMID: 20405335
AIDS; antidepressant drugs; HIV; major depression; psychotherapy
23.  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
24.  Influence of Alternative Thresholds for Initiating HIV Treatment on Life Expectancy and Quality-Adjusted Life Expectancy: A Decision Model 
Annals of internal medicine  2008;148(3):178-185.
The optimal threshold for initiating HIV treatment is unclear.
To compare different thresholds for initiating HIV treatment.
We used our validated computer simulation to weigh important harms from earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy (toxicity, side effects, and resistance accumulation) against important benefits (decreased HIV-related mortality).
Data Sources
Veterans Aging Cohort Study (5742 HIV-infected patients and 11 484 matched uninfected controls) and published reports.
Target Population
Individuals with newly diagnosed chronic HIV infection and varying viral loads (10 000, 30 000, 100 000, and 300 000 copies/mL) and ages (30, 40, and 50 years).
Time Horizon
Alternative thresholds for initiating antiretroviral therapy (CD4 counts of 200, 350, and 500 cells/mm3).
Outcome Measures
Life-years and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).
Results of Base-Case Analysis
Although the simulation was biased against earlier treatment initiation because it used an upper-bound assumption for therapy-related toxicity, earlier treatment increased life expectancy and QALYs at age 30 years regardless of viral load (life expectancies with CD4 initiation thresholds of 500, 350, and 200 cells/mm3 were 18.2 years, 17.6 years, and 17.2 years, respectively, for a viral load of 10 000 copies/mL and 17.3 years, 15.9 years, and 14.5 years, respectively, for a viral load of 300 000 copies/mL), and increased life expectancies at age 40 years if viral loads were greater than 30 000 copies/mL (life expectancies were 12.5 years, 12.0 years, and 11.4 years, respectively, for a viral load of 300 000 copies/mL).
Results of Sensitivity Analysis
Findings favoring early treatment were generally robust.
Results favoring later treatment may not be valid. The findings may not be generalizable to women.
This simulation suggests that earlier initiation of combination antiretroviral therapy is often favored compared with current recommendations.
PMCID: PMC3124094  PMID: 18252681
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

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