The aim of this work was to audit the extent to which routine HIV care in the UK conforms with British HIV Association (BHIVA) guidelines and specifically the proportion of patients starting highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) who achieve the outcome of virological suppression below 50 HIV-1 RNA copies/mL within 6 months.
A prospective cohort review of adults with HIV infection who started antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the first time between April and September 2006 was carried out using structured questionnaire forms.
A total of 1170 adults from 122 clinical sites participated in the review. Of these patients, 699 (59.7%) started ART at CD4 counts <200 cells/μL and 193 (16.5%) had not been tested for HIV drug resistance. Excluding patients with valid reasons for stopping short-term ART, 795 (73.5%) of 1081 patients had an undetectable viral load (VL) at follow-up. Detectable VL was strongly associated with pretreatment CD4 count below 50 cells/μL and pretreatment VL above 100 000 copies/mL, and was not associated with clinic location or case load. About a quarter of patients did not have a VL measurement during the first 6 weeks after starting ART.
The majority of patients who initiated ART at sites participating in this UK national audit were managed within the BHIVA guidelines and achieved virological suppression below 50 copies/mL around 6 months after commencing treatment. Poor VL outcomes were associated with very low CD4 cell count and/or high VL at baseline but not with clinic case load or location. There is an urgent need to diagnose patients at an earlier stage of their HIV disease.