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1.  Trends and Disparities in Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation and Virologic Suppression Among Newly Treatment-Eligible HIV-Infected Individuals in North America, 2001–2009 
Hanna, David B. | Buchacz, Kate | Gebo, Kelly A. | Hessol, Nancy A. | Horberg, Michael A. | Jacobson, Lisa P. | Kirk, Gregory D. | Kitahata, Mari M. | Korthuis, P. Todd | Moore, Richard D. | Napravnik, Sonia | Patel, Pragna | Silverberg, Michael J. | Sterling, Timothy R. | Willig, James H. | Lau, Bryan | Althoff, Keri N. | Crane, Heidi M. | Collier, Ann C. | Samji, Hasina | Thorne, Jennifer E. | Gill, M. John | Klein, Marina B. | Martin, Jeffrey N. | Rodriguez, Benigno | Rourke, Sean B. | Gange, Stephen J. | Benson, A. | Bosch, Ronald J. | Collier, Ann C. | Boswell, Stephen | Grasso, Chris | Mayer, Ken | Hogg, Robert S. | Harrigan, Richard | Montaner, Julio | Cescon, Angela | Brooks, John T. | Buchacz, Kate | Gebo, Kelly A. | Moore, Richard D. | Rodriguez, Benigno | Horberg, Michael A. | Silverberg, Michael J. | Thorne, Jennifer E. | Goedert, James J. | Jacobson, Lisa P. | Klein, Marina B. | Rourke, Sean B. | Burchell, Ann | Rachlis, Anita R. | Hunter-Mellado, Robert F. | Mayor, Angel M. | Gill, M. John | Deeks, Steven G. | Martin, Jeffrey N. | Saag, Michael S. | Mugavero, Michael J. | Willig, James | Eron, Joseph J. | Napravnik, Sonia | Kitahata, Mari M. | Crane, Heidi M. | Justice, Amy C. | Dubrow, Robert | Fiellin, David | Sterling, Timothy R. | Haas, David | Bebawy, Sally | Turner, Megan | Gange, Stephen J. | Anastos, Kathryn | Moore, Richard D. | Saag, Michael S. | Gange, Stephen J. | Kitahata, Mari M. | McKaig, Rosemary G. | Justice, Amy C. | Freeman, Aimee M. | Moore, Richard D. | Freeman, Aimee M. | Lent, Carol | Platt, Aaron | Kitahata, Mari M. | Van Rompaey, Stephen E. | Crane, Heidi M. | Webster, Eric | Morton, Liz | Simon, Brenda | Gange, Stephen J. | Abraham, Alison G. | Lau, Bryan | Althoff, Keri N. | Zhang, Jinbing | Jing, Jerry | Golub, Elizabeth | Modur, Shari | Hanna, David B. | Rebeiro, Peter | Wong, Cherise | Mendes, Adell
In the last decade, timely initiation of antiretroviral therapy and resulting virologic suppression have greatly improved in North America concurrent with the development of better tolerated and more potent regimens, but significant barriers to treatment uptake remain.
Background. Since the mid-1990s, effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens have improved in potency, tolerability, ease of use, and class diversity. We sought to examine trends in treatment initiation and resulting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) virologic suppression in North America between 2001 and 2009, and demographic and geographic disparities in these outcomes.
Methods. We analyzed data on HIV-infected individuals newly clinically eligible for ART (ie, first reported CD4+ count <350 cells/µL or AIDS-defining illness, based on treatment guidelines during the study period) from 17 North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design cohorts. Outcomes included timely ART initiation (within 6 months of eligibility) and virologic suppression (≤500 copies/mL, within 1 year). We examined time trends and considered differences by geographic location, age, sex, transmission risk, race/ethnicity, CD4+ count, and viral load, and documented psychosocial barriers to ART initiation, including non–injection drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and mental illness.
Results. Among 10 692 HIV-infected individuals, the cumulative incidence of 6-month ART initiation increased from 51% in 2001 to 72% in 2009 (Ptrend < .001). The cumulative incidence of 1-year virologic suppression increased from 55% to 81%, and among ART initiators, from 84% to 93% (both Ptrend < .001). A greater number of psychosocial barriers were associated with decreased ART initiation, but not virologic suppression once ART was initiated. We found significant heterogeneity by state or province of residence (P < .001).
Conclusions. In the last decade, timely ART initiation and virologic suppression have greatly improved in North America concurrent with the development of better-tolerated and more potent regimens, but significant barriers to treatment uptake remain, both at the individual level and systemwide.
PMCID: PMC3657490  PMID: 23315317
antiretroviral therapy; healthcare disparities; HIV; time factors; viral load
2.  Physiologic Frailty and Fragility Fracture in HIV-Infected Male Veterans 
Frailty, as measured by the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index, is an important predictor of fragility fracture in the context of established fracture risk factors. Anemia and increasing age drive this association in a male veteran population.
Background. The Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) Index is associated with all-cause mortality in individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is also associated with markers of inflammation and may thus reflect physiologic frailty. This analysis explores the association between physiologic frailty, as assessed by the VACS Index, and fragility fracture.
Methods. HIV-infected men from VACS were included. We identified hip, vertebral, and upper arm fractures using ICD-9-CM codes. We used Cox regression models to assess fragility fracture risk factors including the VACS Index, its components (age, hepatitis C status, FIB-4 score, estimated glomerular filtration rate, hemoglobin, HIV RNA, CD4 count), and previously identified risk factors for fragility fractures.
Results. We included 40 115 HIV-infected male Veterans. They experienced 588 first fragility fractures over 6.0 ± 3.9 years. The VACS Index score (hazard ratio [HR], 1.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11–1.19), white race (HR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.63–2.28), body mass index (HR, 0.94; 95% CI, .92–.96), alcohol-related diagnoses (HR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.26–2.17), cerebrovascular disease (HR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.14–3.33), proton pump inhibitor use (HR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.54–2.27), and protease inhibitor use (HR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.04–1.50) were associated with fracture risk. Components of the VACS Index score most strongly associated with fracture risk were age (HR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.27–1.54), log HIV RNA (HR, 0.91; 95% CI, .88–.94), and hemoglobin level (HR, 0.82; 95% CI, .78–.86).
Conclusions. Frailty, as measured by the VACS Index, is an important predictor of fragility fractures among HIV-infected male Veterans.
PMCID: PMC3634308  PMID: 23378285
HIV; frailty; fragility fractures; Veterans
3.  Adjudicated Morbidity and Mortality Outcomes by Age among Individuals with HIV Infection on Suppressive Antiretroviral Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95061.
Non-AIDS conditions such as cardiovascular disease and non-AIDS defining cancers dominate causes of morbidity and mortality among persons with HIV on suppressive combination antiretroviral therapy. Accurate estimates of disease incidence and of risk factors for these conditions are important in planning preventative efforts.
With use of medical records, serious non-AIDS events, AIDS events, and causes of death were adjudicated using pre-specified criteria by an Endpoint Review Committee in two large international trials. Rates of serious non-AIDS which include cardiovascular disease, end-stage renal disease, decompensated liver disease, and non-AIDS cancer, and other serious (grade 4) adverse events were determined, overall and by age, over a median follow-up of 4.3 years for 3,570 participants with CD4+ cell count ≥300 cells/mm3 who were taking antiretroviral therapy and had an HIV RNA level ≤500 copies/mL. Cox models were used to examine the effect of age and other baseline factors on risk of a composite outcome of all-cause mortality, AIDS, or serious non-AIDS.
Five-year Kaplan-Meier estimates of the composite outcome, overall and by age were 8.3% (overall), 3.6% (<40), 8.7% (40–49) and 16.1% (≥50), respectively (p<0.001). In addition to age, smoking and higher levels of interleukin-6 and D-dimer were significant predictors of the composite outcome. The composite outcome was dominated by serious non-AIDS events (overall 65% of 277 participants with a composite event). Most serious non-AIDS events were due to cardiovascular disease and non-AIDS cancers.
To date, few large studies have carefully collected data on serious non-AIDS outcomes. Thus, reliable estimates of event rates are scarce. Data cited here, from a geographically diverse cohort, will be useful for planning studies of interventions aimed at reducing rates of serious non-AIDS events among people with HIV.
PMCID: PMC3984283  PMID: 24728071
4.  The VACS Index Accurately Predicts Mortality and Treatment Response among Multi-Drug Resistant HIV Infected Patients Participating in the Options in Management with Antiretrovirals (OPTIMA) Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92606.
The VACS Index is highly predictive of all-cause mortality among HIV infected individuals within the first few years of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). However, its accuracy among highly treatment experienced individuals and its responsiveness to treatment interventions have yet to be evaluated. We compared the accuracy and responsiveness of the VACS Index with a Restricted Index of age and traditional HIV biomarkers among patients enrolled in the OPTIMA study.
Using data from 324/339 (96%) patients in OPTIMA, we evaluated associations between indices and mortality using Kaplan-Meier estimates, proportional hazards models, Harrel’s C-statistic and net reclassification improvement (NRI). We also determined the association between study interventions and risk scores over time, and change in score and mortality.
Both the Restricted Index (c = 0.70) and VACS Index (c = 0.74) predicted mortality from baseline, but discrimination was improved with the VACS Index (NRI = 23%). Change in score from baseline to 48 weeks was more strongly associated with survival for the VACS Index than the Restricted Index with respective hazard ratios of 0.26 (95% CI 0.14–0.49) and 0.39(95% CI 0.22–0.70) among the 25% most improved scores, and 2.08 (95% CI 1.27–3.38) and 1.51 (95%CI 0.90–2.53) for the 25% least improved scores.
The VACS Index predicts all-cause mortality more accurately among multi-drug resistant, treatment experienced individuals and is more responsive to changes in risk associated with treatment intervention than an index restricted to age and HIV biomarkers. The VACS Index holds promise as an intermediate outcome for intervention research.
PMCID: PMC3965438  PMID: 24667813
5.  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
6.  Receipt of Opioid Analgesics by HIV-Infected and Uninfected Patients 
Opioids are increasingly prescribed, but there are limited data on opioid receipt by HIV status.
To describe patterns of opioid receipt by HIV status and the relationship between HIV status and receiving any, high-dose, and long-term opioids.
Cross-sectional analysis of the Veterans Aging Cohort Study.
HIV-infected (HIV+) patients receiving Veterans Health Administration care, and uninfected matched controls.
Pain-related diagnoses were determined using ICD-9 codes. Any opioid receipt was defined as at least one opioid prescription; high-dose was defined as an average daily dose ≥120 mg of morphine equivalents; long-term opioids was defined as ≥90 consecutive days, allowing a 30 day refill gap. Multivariable models were used to assess the relationship between HIV infection and the three outcomes.
Among the HIV+ (n = 23,651) and uninfected (n = 55,097) patients, 31 % of HIV+ and 28 % of uninfected (p < 0.001) received opioids. Among patients receiving opioids, HIV+ patients were more likely to have an acute pain diagnosis (7 % vs. 4 %), but less likely to have a chronic pain diagnosis (53 % vs. 69 %). HIV+ patients received a higher mean daily morphine equivalent dose than uninfected patients (41 mg vs. 37 mg, p = 0.001) and were more likely to receive high-dose opioids (6 % vs. 5 %, p < 0.001). HIV+ patients received fewer days of opioids than uninfected patients (median 44 vs. 60, p < 0.001), and were less likely to receive long-term opioids (31 % vs. 34 %, p < 0.001). In multivariable analysis, HIV+ status was associated with receipt of any opioids (AOR 1.40, 95 % CI 1.35, 1.46) and high-dose opioids (AOR 1.22, 95 % CI 1.07, 1.39), but not long-term opioids (AOR 0.94, 95 % CI 0.88, 1.01).
Patients with HIV infection are more likely to be prescribed opioids than uninfected individuals, and there is a variable association with pain diagnoses. Efforts to standardize approaches to pain management may be warranted in this highly complex and vulnerable patient population.
PMCID: PMC3539026  PMID: 22895747
opioid; pain; HIV; narcotics; veterans
7.  Heterogeneity in outcomes of treated HIV-positive patients in Europe and North America: relation with patient and cohort characteristics 
Background HIV cohort collaborations, which pool data from diverse patient cohorts, have provided key insights into outcomes of antiretroviral therapy (ART). However, the extent of, and reasons for, between-cohort heterogeneity in rates of AIDS and mortality are unclear.
Methods We obtained data on adult HIV-positive patients who started ART from 1998 without a previous AIDS diagnosis from 17 cohorts in North America and Europe. Patients were followed up from 1 month to 2 years after starting ART. We examined between-cohort heterogeneity in crude and adjusted (age, sex, HIV transmission risk, year, CD4 count and HIV-1 RNA at start of ART) rates of AIDS and mortality using random-effects meta-analysis and meta-regression.
Results During 61 520 person-years, 754/38 706 (1.9%) patients died and 1890 (4.9%) progressed to AIDS. Between-cohort variance in mortality rates was reduced from 0.84 to 0.24 (0.73 to 0.28 for AIDS rates) after adjustment for patient characteristics. Adjusted mortality rates were inversely associated with cohorts’ estimated completeness of death ascertainment [excellent: 96–100%, good: 90–95%, average: 75–89%; mortality rate ratio 0.66 (95% confidence interval 0.46–0.94) per category]. Mortality rate ratios comparing Europe with North America were 0.42 (0.31–0.57) before and 0.47 (0.30–0.73) after adjusting for completeness of ascertainment.
Conclusions Heterogeneity between settings in outcomes of HIV treatment has implications for collaborative analyses, policy and clinical care. Estimated mortality rates may require adjustment for completeness of ascertainment. Higher mortality rate in North American, compared with European, cohorts was not fully explained by completeness of ascertainment and may be because of the inclusion of more socially marginalized patients with higher mortality risk.
PMCID: PMC3535877  PMID: 23148105
HIV; AIDS; antiretroviral therapy; mortality; cohort; heterogeneity; prognostic model; socio-economic status
8.  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
9.  HIV infection, aging, and immune function: implications for cancer risk and prevention 
Current opinion in oncology  2012;24(5):506-516.
Purpose of review
Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) has turned HIV infection into a complex chronic disease. This article documents cancer risk among HIV-infected persons, reviews immune system effects of HIV infection in relation to cancer risk, discusses implications for cancer prevention, and suggests future research directions.
Recent findings
There has been a shift in the cancer spectrum from AIDS-defining cancers (ADC) to non-ADC, although the burden of ADC remains high. Although a high prevalence of non-HIV cancer risk factors among HIV-infected persons contributes to cancer risk, substantial evidence has accumulated in favor of an independent association between HIV-induced immunodeficiency and elevated risk of many specific cancer types, most of viral cause, although further work is needed to disentangle immunodeficiency and smoking effects for lung cancer, and immunodeficiency and hepatitis virus effects for liver cancer. Relationships between cancer risk and two other immune system hallmarks of HIV infection, chronic inflammation, and immune dysfunction/senescence, remain poorly understood.
Early, sustained ART is a crucial component of cancer prevention. Continued epidemiologic monitoring is needed to detect possible effects on cancer risk of specific ART classes or medications, long-term exposure to systemic inflammation or immune dysfunction, or earlier or more effective ART.
PMCID: PMC3695478  PMID: 22759737
aging; cancer; HIV; immune system; inflammation
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  Management of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection in Advanced Age 
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive patients treated with antiretroviral therapy now have increased life expectancy and develop chronic illnesses that are often seen in older HIV-negative patients.
To address emerging issues related to aging with HIV. Screening older adults for HIV, diagnosis of concomitant diseases, management of multiple comorbid medical illnesses, social isolation, polypharmacy, and factors associated with end-of-life care are reviewed.
Evidence Acquisition
Published guidelines and consensus statements were reviewed. PubMed and PsycINFO were searched between January 2000 and February 2013. Articles not appearing in the search that were referenced by reviewed articles were also evaluated.
The population of older HIV-positive patients is rapidly expanding. It is estimated that by 2015 one-half of the individuals in the United States with HIV will be older than age 50. Older HIV-infected patients are prone to having similar chronic diseases as their HIV-negative counterparts, as well as illnesses associated with co-infections. Medical treatments associated with these conditions, when added to an antiretroviral regimen, increase risk for polypharmacy. Care of aging HIV-infected patients involves a need to balance a number of concurrent comorbid medical conditions.
Conclusions and Relevance
HIV is no longer a fatal disease. Management of multiple comorbid diseases is a common feature associated with longer life expectancy in HIV-positive patients. There is a need to better understand how to optimize the care of these patients.
PMCID: PMC3684249  PMID: 23549585
15.  The Next Therapeutic Challenge in HIV: Polypharmacy 
Drugs & Aging  2013;30(8):613-628.
With the adoption of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART), most HIV-infected individuals in care are on five or more medications and at risk of harm from polypharmacy, a risk that likely increases with number of medications, age, and physiologic frailty. Established harms of polypharmacy include decreased medication adherence and increased serious adverse drug events, including organ system injury, hospitalization, geriatric syndromes (falls, fractures, and cognitive decline) and mortality. The literature on polypharmacy among those with HIV infection is limited, and the literature on polypharmacy among non-HIV patients requires adaptation to the special issues facing those on chronic ART. First, those aging with HIV infection often initiate ART in their 3rd or 4th decade of life and are expected to remain on ART for the rest of their lives. Second, those with HIV may be at higher risk for age-associated comorbid disease, further increasing their risk of polypharmacy. Third, those with HIV may have an enhanced susceptibility to harm from polypharmacy due to decreased organ system reserve, chronic inflammation, and ongoing immune dysfunction. Finally, because ART is life-extending, nonadherence to ART is particularly concerning. After reviewing the relevant literature, we propose an adapted framework with which to address polypharmacy among those on lifelong ART and suggest areas for future work.
PMCID: PMC3715685  PMID: 23740523
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
17.  An Experimental Study of the Agreement of Self-Administration and Telephone Administration of the Timeline Followback Interview* 
The Timeline Followback (TLFB) interview has become state-of-the-science for the collection of retrospective self-reports of daily alcohol consumption. Such data are especially useful for addressing questions of the co-occurrence of quantity of alcohol consumption and other behaviors, such as HIV-related risky sex, on the event level. The purpose of this study was to determine if the TLFB could be used effectively by self-administration compared with the more costly telephone interview in a large, multisite observational study of HIV-positive and HIV-negative adults.
An experimental design was used to compare self-administered and telephone-administered TLFB modes in a subsample (N = 70) of the Veterans Aging Cohort Study, an ongoing longitudinal study of more than 6,000 HIV-positive and HIV-negative men and women presenting for treatment at eight Department of Veterans Affairs Infectious Disease or General Medicine clinics. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four experimental groups defined by mode and sequence of a TLFB administration on two occasions occurring within 1 week: telephone-telephone, telephone-self, self-telephone, and self-self.
Analyses showed no differences in median total number of drinks reported between modes of TLFB administration or sequence of mode of administration. The same findings held for classification of participants as “hazardous” drinkers. Additional analyses showed good-to-excellent test-retest reliability of self-reports for both modes of TLFB administration.
The data derived from this study provide strong experimental evidence for the utility of the self-administered, 30-day TLFB in collecting daily alcohol consumption in large observational studies of HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals.
PMCID: PMC3115624  PMID: 18432391
18.  Patient-Reported Symptoms on the Antiretroviral Regimen Efavirenz/Emtricitabine/Tenofovir 
AIDS Patient Care and STDs  2012;26(6):312-319.
Most patients (80–90%) newly diagnosed with HIV are started on the antiretroviral regimen efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir (EFV/FTC/TDF). Existing studies of patient tolerability, however, are limited. We compared symptom experiences of patients on EFV/FTC/TDF, and the subsequent impact on health-related quality of life, with those of patients on other combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the Veterans Aging Cohort Study from February 2008 to August 2009 to compare the symptom experiences of patients on EFV/FTC/TDF vs. other cART, unadjusted and then adjusted for treatment characteristics, and comorbid disease severity. We then assessed the association between EFV/FTC/TDF use and health-related quality of life. Among the 1,759 patients in our analytic sample, EFV/FTC/TDF use was associated with fewer symptoms than was other cART. The use of EFV/FTC/TDF was independently associated with health-related quality of life, and this association was at least partially explained by symptom burden.
PMCID: PMC3412583  PMID: 22612469
19.  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
20.  Comparison of Two VA Laboratory Data Repositories Indicates That Missing Data Vary Despite Originating From the Same Source 
Medical care  2009;47(1):121-124.
Assessing accuracy and completeness of data is an important component of conducting research. VA Healthcare System benefits from a highly developed electronic medical information system. The Immunology Case Registry was designed to monitor costs and quality of HIV care. The Decision Support System was developed to monitor utilization and costs of veterans in care. Because these systems extract data from the same source using independent methods, they provide an opportunity to compare the accuracy and completeness of each.
To compare overlapping laboratory data from the Veterans Affairs Health Information System between 2 data repositories.
Research Design
For hemoglobin, CD4+ lymphocyte counts (CD4), HIV RNA viral load, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, glycosylated hemoglobin, creatinine, and white blood count, we calculated the percent of individuals with a value from each source. For results in both repositories, we calculated Pearson’s correlation coefficients.
A total of 22,647 HIV + veterans in the Virtual Cohort with a visit in fiscal year 2002.
For 6 out of 9 tests, 68% to 72% of the observations overlapped. For CD4, viral load, and glycosylated hemoglobin less than 31% of observations overlapped. Overlapping results were nearly perfectly correlated except for CD4.
Six of the laboratory tests demonstrated remarkably similar amounts of overlap, though Immunology Case Registry and Decision Support System both have missing data. Findings indicate that validation of laboratory data should be conducted before its use in quality and efficiency projects. When 2 databases are not available for comparison, other methods of validation should be implemented.
PMCID: PMC3032537  PMID: 19106740
laboratory; DSS; ICR; VA
21.  Risk of Anal Cancer in HIV-Infected and HIV-Uninfected Individuals in North America 
In a large North American cohort study, anal cancer incidence rates were substantially higher for HIV-infected men who have sex with men, other men, and women compared with HIV-uninfected individuals. Rates increased from 1996–1999 to 2000–2003 but plateaued by 2004–2007.
Background. Anal cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), although few have evaluated rates separately for men who have sex with men (MSM), other men, and women. There are also conflicting data regarding calendar trends.
Methods. In a study involving 13 cohorts from North America with follow-up between 1996 and 2007, we compared anal cancer incidence rates among 34 189 HIV-infected (55% MSM, 19% other men, 26% women) and 114 260 HIV-uninfected individuals (90% men).
Results. Among men, the unadjusted anal cancer incidence rates per 100 000 person-years were 131 for HIV-infected MSM, 46 for other HIV-infected men, and 2 for HIV-uninfected men, corresponding to demographically adjusted rate ratios (RRs) of 80.3 (95% confidence interval [CI], 42.7–151.1) for HIV-infected MSM and 26.7 (95% CI, 11.5–61.7) for other HIV-infected men compared with HIV-uninfected men. HIV-infected women had an anal cancer rate of 30/100 000 person-years, and no cases were observed for HIV-uninfected women. In a multivariable Poisson regression model, among HIV-infected individuals, the risk was higher for MSM compared with other men (RR, 3.3; 95% CI, 1.8–6.0), but no difference was observed comparing women with other men (RR, 1.0; 95% CI, 0.5–2.2). In comparison with the period 2000–2003, HIV-infected individuals had an adjusted RR of 0.5 (95% CI, .3–.9) in 1996–1999 and 0.9 (95% CI, .6–1.2) in 2004–2007.
Conclusions. Anal cancer rates were substantially higher for HIV-infected MSM, other men, and women compared with HIV-uninfected individuals, suggesting a need for universal prevention efforts. Rates increased after the early antiretroviral therapy era and then plateaued.
PMCID: PMC3297645  PMID: 22291097
22.  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
23.  A Study of Financial Incentives to Reduce Plasma HIV RNA Among Patients in Care 
AIDS and Behavior  2013;17:2293-2300.
The role of financial incentives in HIV care is not well studied. We conducted a single-site study of monetary incentives for viral load suppression, using each patient as his own control. The incentive size ($100/quarter) was designed to be cost-neutral, offsetting estimated downstream costs averted through reduced HIV transmission. Feasibility outcomes were clinic workflow, patient acceptability, and patient comprehension. Although the study was not powered for effectiveness, we also analyzed viral load suppression. Of 80 eligible patients, 77 consented, and 69 had 12 month follow-up. Feasibility outcomes showed minimal impact on patient workflow, near-unanimous patient acceptability, and satisfactory patient comprehension. Among individuals with detectable viral loads pre-intervention, the proportion of undetectable viral load tests increased from 57 to 69 % before versus after the intervention. It is feasible to use financial incentives to reward ART adherence, and to specify the incentive by requiring cost-neutrality and targeting biological outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3742414  PMID: 23404097
Financial incentives; Adherence; Antiretroviral therapy; HIV/AIDS
24.  Rate and predictors of treatment prescription for hepatitis C 
Gut  2006;56(3):385-389.
The true treatment rate for hepatitis C virus (HCV) in veterans is unknown.
To determine the treatment prescription rates and predictors of treatment prescription for HCV in a large national population.
The Department of Veterans Affairs National Patient Care Database (NPCD) was used to identify all HCV‐infected people between the fiscal years 1999 and 2003 using the International classification of diseases, 9th revision codes. Demographic information, medical and psychiatric comorbidities, and drug and alcohol use diagnoses were retrieved. Pharmacy data were retrieved from the Department of Veterans Affairs Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) database. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the predictors of treatment for HCV in HCV.
113 927 veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs care with a diagnosis of HCV were identified. The treatment prescription rate for HCV was 11.8%. Patients not prescribed treatment were older, more likely to be from minority races, have more alcohol and drug misuse, and have medical and psychiatric comorbid conditions. In a multivariate logistic regression model, the following factors were predictive of non‐treatment for HCV: increasing age (odds ratio (OR) 0.77 for each 5‐year increase in age; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.76 to 0.78); black race (OR 0.64; 95% CI 0.6 to 0.68); Hispanic race (OR 0.88; 95% CI 0.8 to 0.96); alcohol abuse and dependence (OR 0.62; 95% CI 0.59 to 0.65); drug abuse and dependence (OR 0.78; 95% CI 0.74 to 0.82); anaemia (OR 0.18; 95% CI 0.16 to 0.21); hepatitis B infection (OR 0.72; 95% CI 0.62 to 0.83); coronary artery disease (OR 0.9; 95% CI 0.85 to 0.97); stroke (OR 0.75; 95% CI 0.67 to 0.85); bipolar disorder (OR 0.64; 95% CI 0.58 to 0.70); major depression (OR 0.72; 95% CI 0.67 to 0.77); mild depression (OR 0.56; 95% CI 0.53 to 0.59); and schizophrenia (OR 0.71; 95% CI 0.65 to 0.77). The following factors were associated with a higher likelihood of treatment prescription for HCV: liver cirrhosis (OR 1.6; 95% CI 1.5 to 1.7); and diabetes (OR 1.07; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.12).
A small number of HCV‐infected veterans were prescribed treatment for HCV. Non‐treatment is associated with increasing age, non‐white race, drug and alcohol abuse, and dependence and comorbid illnesses. Reasons for non‐treatment need further study.
PMCID: PMC1856823  PMID: 17005764
25.  Hepatic safety and antiretroviral effectiveness in HIV-infected patients receiving naltrexone 
We sought to determine the impact of naltrexone on hepatic enzymes and HIV biomarkers in HIV-infected patients.
We used data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study-Virtual Cohort, an electronic database of administrative, pharmacy and laboratory data. We restricted our sample to HIV-infected patients who received an initial oral naltrexone prescription, of at least seven days duration. We examined aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and HIV biomarker (CD4 and HIV RNA) values for the 365 days prior to, during, and for the 365 days post-naltrexone prescription. We also examined cases of liver enzyme elevation (LEE; defined as greater than 5 times baseline ALT or AST or greater than 3.5 times baseline if baseline ALT or AST was greater than or equal to 40 IU/L).
Of 114 HIV-infected individuals, 97% were male, 65% white, 57% Hepatitis C co-infected, median age was 49 years; 89% of the sample had a history of alcohol dependence and 32% had opioid dependence. Median duration of naltrexone prescription was 49 (interquartile range 30–83) days, representing 9,525 person-days of naltrexone use. Mean ALT and AST levels remained below the upper limit of normal. Two cases of LEE occurred. Mean CD4 count remained stable and mean HIV RNA decreased after naltrexone prescription.
In HIV-infected patients, oral naltrexone is rarely associated with clinically significant ALT or AST changes and does not have a negative impact on biologic parameters. Therefore, HIV-infected patients with alcohol or opioid dependence can be treated with naltrexone.
PMCID: PMC3221963  PMID: 21797892

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