Age at antiretroviral therapy initiation predicts immune recovery, death, and loss to follow-up among HIV-infected adults in urban Zambia

Academic Article


  • We analyzed the association of age at antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation with CD4+ T cell count recovery, death, and loss to follow-up (LTFU) among HIV-infected adults in Zambia. We compared baseline characteristics of patients by sex and age at ART initiation [categorized as 16-29 years, 30-39 years, 40-49 years, 50-59 years, and 60 years and older]. We used the medication possession ratio to assess adherence and analysis of covariance to measure the adjusted change in CD4+ T cell count during ART. Using Cox proportional hazard regression, we examined the association of age with death and LTFU. In a secondary analysis, we repeated models with age as a continuous variable. Among 92,130 HIV-infected adults who initiated ART, the median age was 34 years and 6,281 (6.8%) were aged ≥50 years. Compared with 16-29 year olds, 40-49 year olds (-46 cells/mm3), 50-59 year olds (-53 cells/mm3), and 60+ year olds (-60 cells/mm3) had reduced CD4+ T cell gains during ART. The adjusted hazard ratio (AHR) for death was increased for individuals aged ≥40 years (AHR 1.25 for 40-49 year olds, 1.56 for 50-59 year olds, and 2.97 for 60+ year olds). Adherence and retention in care were poorest among 16-29 year olds but similar in other groups. As a continuous variable, a 5-year increase in age predicted reduced CD4+ T cell count recovery and increased risk of death. Increased age at ART initiation was associated with poorer clinical outcomes, while age <30 years was associated with a higher likelihood of being lost to follow-up. HIV treatment guidelines should consider age-specific recommendations.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Vinikoor MJ; Joseph J; Mwale J; Marx MA; Goma FM; Mulenga LB; Stringer JSA; Eron JJ; Chi BH
  • Start Page

  • 949
  • End Page

  • 955
  • Volume

  • 30
  • Issue

  • 10