To analyse the impact of combined antiretroviral treatment (cART) on survival with AIDS, according to the nature of the first AIDS-defining clinical illness (ADI); to examine trends in AIDS-defining causes (ADC) and non-AIDS-defining causes (non-ADC) of death.
From the French Hospital Database on HIV, we studied trends in the nature of the first ADI and subsequent survival in France during three calendar periods: the pre-cART period (1993–1995; 8027 patients), the early cART period (1998–2000; 3504 patients) and the late cART period (2001–2003; 2936 patients).
The three most frequent initial ADIs were Pneumocystis carinii (jirovecii) pneumonia (PCP) (15.6%), oesophageal candidiasis (14.3%) and Kaposi's sarcoma (13.9%) in the pre-cART period. In the late cART period, the most frequent ADIs were tuberculosis (22.7%), PCP (19.1%) and oesophageal candidiasis (16.2%). The risk of death after a first ADI fell significantly after the arrival of cART. Lower declines were observed for progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, lymphoma and Mycobacterium avium complex infection. After an ADI, the 3-year risk of death from an ADC fell fivefold between the pre-cART and late cART periods (39%vs. 8%), and fell twofold for non-ADCs (17%vs. 9%).
The relative frequencies of initial ADI have changed since the advent of cART. Tuberculosis is now the most frequent initial ADI in France; this is probably the result of the increasing proportion of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. After a first ADI, cART has a major impact on ADCs and a smaller impact on deaths from other causes. The risk of death from AIDS and from other causes is now similar.