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1.  CD8+ T-Cells Count in Acute Myocardial Infarction in HIV Disease in a Predominantly Male Cohort 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:246870.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus- (HIV-) infected persons have a higher risk for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) than HIV-uninfected persons. Earlier studies suggest that HIV viral load, CD4+ T-cell count, and antiretroviral therapy are associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Whether CD8+ T-cell count is associated with CVD risk is not clear. We investigated the association between CD8+ T-cell count and incident AMI in a cohort of 73,398 people (of which 97.3% were men) enrolled in the U.S. Veterans Aging Cohort Study-Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC). Compared to uninfected people, HIV-infected people with high baseline CD8+ T-cell counts (>1065 cells/mm3) had increased AMI risk (adjusted HR = 1.82, P < 0.001, 95% CI: 1.46 to 2.28). There was evidence that the effect of CD8+ T-cell tertiles on AMI risk differed by CD4+ T-cell level: compared to uninfected people, HIV-infected people with CD4+ T-cell counts ≥200 cells/mm3 had increased AMI risk with high CD8+ T-cell count, while those with CD4+ T-cell counts <200 cells/mm3 had increased AMI risk with low CD8+ T-cell count. CD8+ T-cell counts may add additional AMI risk stratification information beyond that provided by CD4+ T-cell counts alone.
doi:10.1155/2015/246870
PMCID: PMC4320893
2.  Cancer Incidence in HIV-Infected Versus Uninfected Veterans: Comparison of Cancer Registry and ICD-9 Code Diagnoses 
Background
Given the growing interest in the cancer burden in persons living with HIV/AIDS, we examined the validity of data sources for cancer diagnoses (cancer registry versus International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision [ICD-9 codes]) and compared the association between HIV status and cancer risk using each data source in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a prospective cohort of HIV-infected and uninfected veterans from 1996 to 2008.
Methods
We reviewed charts to confirm potential incident cancers at four VACS sites. In the entire cohort, we calculated cancer-type-specific age-, sex-, race/ethnicity-, and calendar-period-standardized incidence rates and incidence rate ratios (IRR) (HIV-infected versus uninfected). We calculated standardized incidence ratios (SIR) to compare VACS and Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results rates.
Results
Compared to chart review, both Veterans Affairs Central Cancer Registry (VACCR) and ICD-9 diagnoses had approximately 90% sensitivity; however, VACCR had higher positive predictive value (96% versus 63%). There were 6,010 VACCR and 13,386 ICD-9 incident cancers among 116,072 veterans. Although ICD-9 rates tended to be double VACCR rates, most IRRs were in the same direction and of similar magnitude, regardless of data source. Using either source, all cancers combined, most viral-infection-related cancers, lung cancer, melanoma, and leukemia had significantly elevated IRRs. Using ICD-9, eight additional IRRs were significantly elevated, most likely due to false positive diagnoses. Most ICD-9 SIRs were significantly elevated and all were higher than the corresponding VACCR SIR.
Conclusions
ICD-9 may be used with caution for estimating IRRs, but should be avoided when estimating incidence or SIRs. Elevated cancer risk based on VACCR diagnoses among HIV-infected veterans was consistent with other studies.
doi:10.4172/2155-6113.1000318
PMCID: PMC4285627  PMID: 25580366
Neoplasms; Registries; International Classification of Diseases; HIV Infections
3.  Medical ICU Admission Diagnoses and Outcomes in Human Immunodeficiency Virus–Infected and Virus–Uninfected Veterans in the Combination Antiretroviral Era 
Critical care medicine  2013;41(6):1458-1467.
Objectives
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected (HIV+) patients on combination antiretroviral therapy are living longer but have increased risk for aging-associated disease which may lead to increasing critical care requirements. We compare medical ICU admission characteristics and outcomes among HIV infected and demographically similar uninfected patients (uninfected) and considered whether an index which combines routine clinical biomarkers (the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index) predicts 30-day medical ICU mortality.
Design
Observational data analyses (Veterans Aging Cohort Study).
Setting
Eight Veterans Affairs medical centers nationwide.
Patients
HIV infected and uninfected with a medical ICU admission between 2002 and 2010.
Intervention
None.
Measurements and Main Results
Medical ICU admission was determined using bedsection (Veterans Affairs) and revenue center codes (Medicare). For Veterans Affairs admissions, we used clinical data to calculate Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index scores and multivariable logistic regression to determine factors associated with 30-day mortality. Overall, 539 of 3,620 (15%) HIV infected and 375 of 3,639 (10%) uninfected had a medical ICU admission; 72% and 78%, respectively, were Veterans Affairs based. HIV+ patients were younger at admission (p < 0.0001). Although most HIV+ patients were on antiretroviral therapy (71%) with undetectable HIV-1 RNA (54%), compared with uninfected they were more commonly admitted with respiratory diagnoses or infections (21% vs. 12%), were more likely to require mechanical ventilation (17% vs. 9%; p = 0.001), and had a higher mortality rate (18.6% vs. 11.2%, p = 0.003). Cardiovascular diagnoses were less common among HIV infected (18% vs. 29%; p < 0.0001). In logistic regression (c-statistic 0.87), a 5-point increment in Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index was associated with an odds ratio of death of 1.22 (95% confidence interval 1.14–1.30) among HIV infected and of 1.50 (95% confidence interval 1.29–1.76) among uninfected; infection/sepsis and respiratory diagnoses were also associated with mortality.
Conclusions
Medical ICU admission was frequent, 30-day mortality higher, and mechanical ventilation more common in HIV infected compared with uninfected. The Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index calculated at medical ICU admission predicted 30-day mortality for HIV infected and uninfected. As more individuals age with HIV, their requirements for medical ICU care may be greater than demographically similar uninfected individuals.
doi:10.1097/CCM.0b013e31827caa46
PMCID: PMC4283206  PMID: 23507717
30-day mortality; comorbidity; human immunodeficiency virus; medical ICU; Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index
4.  Prehypertension, Hypertension, and the Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction in HIV-Infected and -Uninfected Veterans 
We found increased acute myocardial infarction risk among hypertensive and prehypertensive HIV-infected veterans compared to normotensive uninfected veterans, independent of confounding comorbidities.
Background. Compared to uninfected people, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected individuals may have an increased risk of acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Currently, HIV-infected people are treated to the same blood pressure (BP) goals (<140/90 or <130/80 mm Hg) as their uninfected counterparts. Whether HIV-infected people with elevated BP have excess AMI risk compared to uninfected people is not known. This study examines whether the association between elevated BP and AMI risk differs by HIV status.
Methods. The Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort (VACS VC) consists of HIV-infected and -uninfected veterans matched 1:2 on age, sex, race/ethnicity, and clinical site. For this analysis, we analyzed 81 026 people with available BP data from VACS VC, who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. BP was the average of the 3 routine outpatient clinical measurements performed closest to baseline (first clinical visit after April 2003). BP categories used in the analyses were based on criteria of the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Analyses were performed using Cox proportional hazards regression.
Results. Over 5.9 years (median), 860 incident AMIs occurred. Low/high prehypertensive and untreated/treated hypertensive HIV-infected individuals had increased AMI risk compared to uninfected, untreated normotensive individuals (hazard ratio [HR], 1.60 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.07–2.39]; HR, 1.81 [95% CI, 1.22–2.68]; HR, 2.57 [95% CI, 1.76–3.76]; and HR, 2.76 [95% CI, 1.90–4.02], respectively).
Conclusions. HIV, prehypertensive BP, and hypertensive BP were associated with an increased risk of AMI in a cohort of HIV-infected and -uninfected veterans. Future studies should prospectively investigate whether HIV interacts with BP to further increase AMI risk.
doi:10.1093/cid/cit652
PMCID: PMC3864500  PMID: 24065316
blood pressure; prehypertension; HIV; myocardial infarction
5.  Hepatic Decompensation in Antiretroviral-Treated HIV/Hepatitis C-Coinfected Compared to Hepatitis C-Monoinfected Patients: A Cohort Study 
Annals of internal medicine  2014;160(6):369-379.
Background
The incidence and determinants of hepatic decompensation have been incompletely examined among HIV/hepatitis C virus (HCV)-coinfected patients in the antiretroviral therapy (ART) era, and few studies have compared rates of outcomes to those of patients with chronic HCV alone.
Objectives
To compare the incidence of hepatic decompensation between antiretroviral-treated HIV/HCV-coinfected and HCV-monoinfected patients, and evaluate factors associated with decompensation among coinfected patients on ART.
Design
Retrospective cohort study.
Setting
Veterans Health Administration.
Patients
4,280 HIV/HCV-coinfected patients who initiated ART and 6,079 HCV-monoinfected patients receiving care between 1997 and 2010. All patients had detectable HCV RNA and were HCV treatment-naïve.
Measurements
Incident hepatic decompensation, determined by diagnoses of ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, or esophageal variceal hemorrhage.
Results
The incidence of hepatic decompensation was greater among coinfected than monoinfected patients (at 10 years: 7.4% versus 4.8%; p<0.001). Compared to HCV-monoinfected patients, antiretroviral-treated HIV/HCV-coinfected patients had a higher rate of hepatic decompensation (hazard ratio [HR] accounting for competing risks, 1.56 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.31–1.86]). Coinfected patients who maintained HIV RNA levels <1,000 copies/mL still had higher rates of decompensation than HCV-monoinfected patients (HR, 1.44 [95% CI, 1.05–1.99]). Baseline advanced hepatic fibrosis (FIB-4 >3.25; HR, 5.45 [95% CI, 3.79–7.84]), baseline hemoglobin <10 g/dL (HR, 2.24 [CI, 1.20–4.20]), diabetes mellitus (HR, 1.88[95% CI, 1.38–2.56]), and non-black race (HR, 2.12 [95% CI, 1.65–2.72]) were each associated with higher rates of decompensation among coinfected patients on ART.
Limitations
Observational study of predominantly male patients.
Conclusions
Despite ART, HIV/HCV-coinfected patients had higher rates of hepatic decompensation than HCV-monoinfected individuals. Rates of decompensation were higher for coinfected patients with advanced liver fibrosis, severe anemia, diabetes, and non-black race.
doi:10.7326/M13-1829
PMCID: PMC4254786  PMID: 24723077
hepatic decompensation; end-stage liver disease; HIV/HCV coinfection; HIV; hepatitis C
6.  Risk factors for hospitalization and medical intensive care unit (MICU) admission among HIV infected Veterans 
Objective
With improved survival of HIV-infected persons on antiretroviral therapy and growing prevalence of non-AIDS diseases, we asked whether the VACS Index, a composite measure of HIV-associated and general organ dysfunction predictive of all-cause mortality, predicts hospitalization and medical intensive care unit (MICU) admission. We also asked whether AIDS and non-AIDS conditions increased risk after accounting for VACS Index score.
Methods
We analyzed data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a prospective study of HIV-infected Veterans receiving care between 2002–2008. Data were obtained from the electronic medical record, VA administrative databases and patient questionnaires, and were used to identify comorbidities and calculate baseline VACS Index scores. The primary outcome was first hospitalization within 2 years of VACS enrollment. We used multivariable Cox regression to determine risk factors associated with hospitalization and logistic regression to determine risk factors for MICU admission, given hospitalization.
Results
1141/3410 (33.5%) patients were hospitalized within 2 years; 203/1141 (17.8%) included a MICU admission. Median VACS Index scores were 25 (no hospitalization), 34 (hospitalization only) and 51 (MICU). In adjusted analyses, a 5-point increment in VACS Index score was associated with 10% higher risk of hospitalization and MICU admission. In addition to VACS Index score, Hispanic ethnicity, current smoking, hazardous alcohol use, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes and prior AIDS-defining event predicted hospitalization. Among those hospitalized, VACS Index score, cardiac disease and prior cancer predicted MICU admission.
Conclusions
The VACS Index predicted hospitalization and MICU admission as did current smoking, hazardous alcohol use, and AIDS and certain non-AIDS diagnoses.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e318278f3fa
PMCID: PMC4182723  PMID: 23111572
HIV; hospitalization; medical intensive care unit (MICU); aging; VACS Index; comorbidity
7.  Validation of an Algorithm to Identify Antiretroviral-Naïve Status at Time of Entry into a Large, Observational Cohort of HIV-infected Patients 
Pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety  2013;22(9):10.1002/pds.3476.
Purpose
Large, observational HIV cohorts play an important role in answering questions which are difficult to study in randomized trials; however, they often lack detailed information regarding previous antiretroviral treatment (ART). Knowledge of ART treatment history is important when ascertaining the long-term impact of medications, co-morbidities, or adverse reactions on HIV outcomes.
Methods
We performed a retrospective study to validate a prediction algorithm for identifying ART-naïve patients using the Veterans Aging Cohort Study’s Virtual Cohort—an observational cohort of 40,594 HIV-infected veterans nationwide. Medical records for 3070 HIV-infected patients were reviewed to determine history of combination ART treatment. An algorithm using Virtual Cohort laboratory data was used to predict ART treatment status and compared to medical record review.
Results
Among 3070 patients’ medical records reviewed, 1223 were eligible for analysis. Of these, 990 (81%) were ART naïve at cohort entry based on medical record review. The prediction algorithm’s sensitivity was 86%, specificity 47%, positive predictive value (PPV) 87% and negative predictive value 45%, using a viral load threshold of <400 copies/ml. Sensitivity analysis revealed that PPV would be maximized by increasing the viral load threshold, whereas sensitivity would be maximized by lowering the viral load threshold.
Conclusions
A prediction algorithm using available laboratory data can be used to accurately identify ART-naïve patients in large, observational HIV cohorts. Use of this algorithm will allow investigators to accurately limit analyses to ART-naïve patients when studying the contribution of ART to outcomes and adverse events.
doi:10.1002/pds.3476
PMCID: PMC3831617  PMID: 23836591
HIV-1; Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active; Cohort Studies; HIV infections/epidemiology; HIV infections/drug therapy
8.  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.
doi:10.1093/cid/cit056
PMCID: PMC3634308  PMID: 23378285
HIV; frailty; fragility fractures; Veterans
9.  HIV-1 Vpr Induces Adipose Dysfunction in Vivo Through Reciprocal Effects on PPAR/GR Co-Regulation 
Science translational medicine  2013;5(213):213ra164.
Viral infections, such as HIV, have been linked to obesity, but mechanistic evidence that they cause adipose dysfunction in vivo is lacking. We investigated a pathogenic role for the HIV-1 accessory protein viral protein R (Vpr), which can coactivate the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and co-repress peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor γ (PPARγ) in vitro, in HIV-associated adipose dysfunction. Vpr circulated in the blood of most HIV-infected patients tested, including those on antiretroviral therapy (ART) with undetectable viral load. Vpr-mediated mechanisms were dissected in vivo using mouse models expressing the Vpr transgene in adipose tissues and liver (Vpr-Tg) or infused with synthetic Vpr. Both models demonstrated accelerated whole-body lipolysis, hyperglycemia and hypertriglyceridemia, and tissue-specific findings. Fat depots in these mice had diminished mass, macrophage infiltration, and blunted PPARγ target gene expression but increased GR target gene expression. In liver, we observed blunted PPARα target gene expression, steatosis with decreased adenosine monophosphate– activated protein kinase activity, and insulin resistance. Similar to human HIV-infected patients, Vpr circulated in the serum of Vpr-Tg mice. Vpr blocked differentiation in preadipocytes through cell cycle arrest, whereas in mature adipocytes, it increased lipolysis with reciprocally altered association of PPARγ and GR with their target promoters. These results delineate a distinct pathogenic sequence: Vpr, released from HIV-1 in tissue reservoirs after ART, can disrupt PPAR/GR co-regulation and cell cycle control to produce adipose dysfunction and hepatosteatosis. Confirmation of these mechanisms in HIV patients could lead to targeted treatment of the metabolic complications with Vpr inhibitors, GR antagonists, or PPARγ/PPARα agonists.
doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3007148
PMCID: PMC4009012  PMID: 24285483
10.  Are VA Primary Care Providers Aware of HIV Testing Recommendations for Veterans? Findings at an Urban VA Primary Care Clinic 
Military medicine  2013;178(4):e483-e488.
Given the prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in veterans and that nearly 90% of veterans have not been HIV tested, the Veterans Affairs (VA) has recommended routine HIV testing of all veterans. The objective of this study carried out at an urban VA primary care clinic was to assess provider knowledge of recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and VA HIV testing recommendations and policies. Fifty-six primary care providers completed a survey. Nearly 40% of providers were unaware of the CDC recommendation to test all persons ages 13 to 64 in health care settings or the VA policy to test veterans of all ages. Over 75% of providers were unaware of the latest requirements for pre- and posttest counseling, and many were unaware of the latest consent process requirements. Educating VA providers about recent HIV testing recommendations and policies may improve the low HIV testing prevalence in the VA.
doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00222
PMCID: PMC3967552  PMID: 23707836
11.  Unhealthy Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use are Associated with Decreased Quality of HIV Care 
Background
HIV-infected patients with substance use experience suboptimal health outcomes, possibly to due to variations in care.
Objectives
To assess the association between substance use and the quality of HIV care (QOC) received.
Research Design
Retrospective cohort study.
Subjects
HIV-infected patients enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study.
Measures
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e31826741aa
PMCID: PMC3460799  PMID: 22820808
Alcohol; Quality of Health Care; HIV; Quality Indicators; Health Care; Opioid-Related Disorders
12.  Comorbid diabetes and the risk of progressive chronic kidney disease in HIV-infected adults: Data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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].
Discussion
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.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e31825b70d9
PMCID: PMC3392432  PMID: 22592587
non-AIDS complications; HIV; chronic kidney disease; diabetes; risk factors
13.  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.
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
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.
OBJECTIVE
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.
DESIGN
Retrospective cohort study.
PARTICIPANTS
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.
MAIN MEASURES
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.
KEY RESULTS
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).
CONCLUSIONS
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.
doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2346-z
PMCID: PMC3695278  PMID: 23807068
women; Veterans; HIV; health care disparities; burden of illness
14.  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.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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).
Conclusions
Our data suggest that HIV infection is a risk factor for HF. Ongoing viral replication is associated with a higher risk of developing HF.
doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.151
PMCID: PMC3687533  PMID: 21518940
15.  Patient-Reported Symptoms on the Antiretroviral Regimen Efavirenz/Emtricitabine/Tenofovir 
AIDS Patient Care and STDs  2012;26(6):312-319.
Abstract
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.
doi:10.1089/apc.2012.0044
PMCID: PMC3412583  PMID: 22612469
16.  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.
doi:10.1093/cid/cir989
PMCID: PMC3297653  PMID: 22337823
17.  Examining the Link between Patient Satisfaction and Adherence to HIV Care: A Structural Equation Model 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54729.
Introduction
Analogous to the business model of customer satisfaction and retention, patient satisfaction could serve as an innovative, patient-centered focus for increasing retention in HIV care and adherence to HAART, and ultimately HIV suppression.
Objective
To test, through structural equation modeling (SEM), a model of HIV suppression in which patient satisfaction influences HIV suppression indirectly through retention in HIV care and adherence to HAART.
Methods
We conducted a cross-sectional study of adults receiving HIV care at two clinics in Texas. Patient satisfaction was based on two validated items, one adapted from the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey (“Would you recommend this clinic to other patients with HIV?) and one adapted from the Delighted-Terrible Scale, (“Overall, how do you feel about the care you got at this clinic in the last 12 months?”). A validated, single-item question measured adherence to HAART over the past 4 weeks. Retention in HIV care was based on visit constancy in the year prior to the survey. HIV suppression was defined as plasma HIV RNA <48 copies/mL at the time of the survey. We used SEM to test hypothesized relationships.
Results
The analyses included 489 patients (94% of eligible patients). The patient satisfaction score had a mean of 8.5 (median 9.2) on a 0- to 10- point scale. A total of 46% reported “excellent” adherence, 76% had adequate retention, and 70% had HIV suppression. In SEM analyses, patient satisfaction with care influences retention in HIV care and adherence to HAART, which in turn serve as key determinants of HIV suppression (all p<.0001).
Conclusions
Patient satisfaction may have direct effects on retention in HIV care and adherence to HAART. Interventions to improve the care experience, without necessarily targeting objective clinical performance measures, could serve as an innovative method for optimizing HIV outcomes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054729
PMCID: PMC3559888  PMID: 23382948
18.  Validating Smoking Data From the Veteran’s Affairs Health Factors Dataset, an Electronic Data Source 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2011;13(12):1233-1239.
Introduction:
We assessed smoking data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) electronic medical record (EMR) Health Factors dataset.
Methods:
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.
Results:
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.
Conclusions:
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.
doi:10.1093/ntr/ntr206
PMCID: PMC3223583  PMID: 21911825
19.  FIB-4 index is associated with hepatocellular carcinoma risk in HIV-infected patients 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
Calculated from routine, non-invasive laboratory tests, FIB-4 is a strong, independent HCC risk factor in HIV-infected patients.
Impact
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.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-11-0582
PMCID: PMC3237927  PMID: 22028407
hepatocellular carcinoma; FIB-4; HIV; liver neoplasms; hepatic fibrosis
20.  Identifying Drivers of Overall Satisfaction in Patients Receiving HIV Primary Care: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42980.
Objective
This study seeks to understand the drivers of overall patient satisfaction in a predominantly low-income, ethnic-minority population of HIV primary care patients. The study’s primary aims were to determine 1) the component experiences which contribute to patients’ evaluations of their overall satisfaction with care received, and 2) the relative contribution of each component experience in explaining patients’ evaluation of overall satisfaction.
Methods
We conducted a cross-sectional study of 489 adult patients receiving HIV primary care at two clinics in Houston, Texas, from January 13–April 21, 2011. The participation rate among eligible patients was 94%. The survey included 15 questions about various components of the care experience, 4 questions about the provider experience and 3 questions about overall care. To ensure that the survey was appropriately tailored to our clinic population and the list of component experiences reflected all aspects of the care experience salient to patients, we conducted in-depth interviews with key providers and clinic staff and pre-tested the survey instrument with patients.
Results
Patients’ evaluation of their provider correlated the strongest with their overall satisfaction (standardized β = 0.445, p<0.001) and accounted for almost half of the explained variance. Access and availability, like clinic hours and ease of calling the clinic, also correlated with overall satisfaction, but less strongly. Wait time and parking, despite receiving low patient ratings, did not correlate with overall satisfaction.
Conclusions
The patient-provider relationship far exceeds other component experiences of care in its association with overall satisfaction. Our study suggests that interventions to improve overall patient satisfaction should focus on improving patients’ evaluation of their provider.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042980
PMCID: PMC3418231  PMID: 22912770
21.  Validity of Diagnostic Codes and Liver-Related Laboratory Abnormalities to Identify Hepatic Decompensation Events in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
SUMMARY
Purpose
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).
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1002/pds.2148
PMCID: PMC3131229  PMID: 21626605
hepatic decompensation; end-stage liver disease; epidemiologic methods; outcomes; validation studies
22.  The Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease Among Veterans with and without HIV and Hepatitis C 
Background
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).
Conclusions
HIV+HCV+ Veterans have an increased risk of CHD compared to HIV+HCV−, and HIV−HCV− Veterans.
doi:10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.110.957415
PMCID: PMC3159506  PMID: 21712519
viruses; coronary disease; mortality; multi morbidity
23.  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.
doi:10.1164/rccm.201006-0836OC
PMCID: PMC3266024  PMID: 20851926
HIV; respiratory tract diseases; lung diseases, obstructive; pneumonia; pneumonia, bacterial
24.  Association of Age and Comorbidity with Physical Function in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Patients: Results from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
AIDS Patient Care and STDs  2011;25(1):13-20.
Abstract
HIV clinical care now involves prevention and treatment of age-associated comorbidity. Although physical function is an established correlate to comorbidity in older adults without HIV infection, its role in aging of HIV-infected adults is not well understood. To investigate this question we conducted cross-sectional analyses including linear regression models of physical function in 3227 HIV-infected and 3240 uninfected patients enrolled 2002–2006 in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study-8-site (VACS-8). Baseline self-reported physical function correlated with the Short Form-12 physical subscale (ρ = 0.74, p < 0.001), and predicted survival. Across the age groups decline in physical function per year was greater in HIV-infected patients (βcoef −0.25, p < 0.001) compared to uninfected patients (βcoef −0.08, p = 0.03). This difference, although statistically significant (p < 0.01), was small. Function in the average 50-year old HIV-infected subject was equivalent to the average 51.5-year-old uninfected subject. History of cardiovascular disease was a significant predictor of poor function, but the effect was similar across groups. Chronic pulmonary disease had a differential effect on function by HIV status (Δβcoef −3.5, p = 0.03). A 50-year-old HIV-infected subject with chronic pulmonary disease had the equivalent level of function as a 68.1-year-old uninfected subject with chronic pulmonary disease. We conclude that age-associated comorbidity affects physical function in HIV-infected patients, and may modify the effect of aging. Longitudinal research with markers of disease severity is needed to investigate loss of physical function with aging, and to develop age-specific HIV care guidelines.
doi:10.1089/apc.2010.0242
PMCID: PMC3030913  PMID: 21214375

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