Background: The prognostic value of discordant immunologic (CD4 cell increase) and virologic (plasma HIV RNA level decrease) responses to antiretroviral treatment is not known.
Objective: To study the relation between clinical outcome of HIV-infected patients receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and early immunologic and virologic responses to such therapy.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: 68 hospitals in France.
Patients: 2236 protease inhibitor–naive patients.
Intervention: Initiation of HAART with one protease inhibitor and two nucleoside analogues between July 1996 and March 1997.
Measurements: Immunologic and virologic response at 6 months. Multivariate Cox models were used to assess the relation between these responses and progression to a new AIDS-defining event or death.
Results: On the basis of 6-month immunologic and virologic responses, patients were classified into four groups: complete response (47.5%), complete nonresponse (16.2%), immunologic response only (19.0%), and virologic response only (17.3%). After month 6 and within a median of 18 months, 69 patients died and 123 experienced a new AIDS-defining event. After adjustment, complete nonresponders and those with only a virologic response had significantly higher risks for clinical progression at 6 months (relative risk, 3.38 [95% CI, 2.28 to 5.02] and 1.98 [CI, 1.26 to 3.10], respectively) than complete responders. The difference between complete responders and those with only an immunologic response at 6 months was weaker and nonsignificant (relative risk, 1.55 [CI, 0.96 to 2.50]).
Conclusions: Immunologic response after 6 months of HAART indicates a favorable clinical outcome in HIV-infected patients regardless of virologic response. This suggests that both immunologic and virologic markers should be used in clinical practice to evaluate treatment response.