Treatment response and mortality among patients starting antiretroviral therapy with and without Kaposi sarcoma: a cohort study

BACKGROUND: Improved survival among HIV-infected individuals on antiretroviral therapy (ART) has focused attention on AIDS-related cancers including Kaposi sarcoma (KS). However, the effect of KS on response to ART is not well-described in Southern Africa. We assessed the effect of KS on survival and immunologic and virologic treatment responses at 6- and 12-months after initiation of ART. METHODS: We analyzed prospectively collected data from a cohort of HIV-infected adults initiating ART in South Africa. Differences in mortality between those with and without KS at ART initiation were estimated with Cox proportional hazard models. Log-binomial models were used to assess differences in CD4 count response and HIV virologic suppression within a year of initiating treatment. RESULTS: Between January 2001-January 2008, 13,847 HIV-infected adults initiated ART at the study clinics. Those with KS at ART initiation (n = 247, 2%) were similar to those without KS (n = 13600,98%) with respect to age (35 vs. 35yrs), presenting CD4 count (74 vs. 85cells/mm 3 ) and proportion on TB treatment (37% vs. 30%). In models adjusted for sex, baseline CD4 count, age, treatment site, tuberculosis and year of ART initiation, KS patients were over three times more likely to have died at any time after ART initiation (hazard ratio[HR]: 3.62; 95% CI: 2.71-4.84) than those without KS. The increased risk was highest within the first year on ART (HR: 4.05; 95% CI: 2.95-5.55) and attenuated thereafter (HR: 2.30; 95% CI: 1.08-4.89). Those with KS also gained, on average, 29 fewer CD4 cells (95% CI: 7-52cells/mm 3 ) and were less likely to increase their CD4 count by 50 cells from baseline (RR: 1.43; 95% CI: 0.99-2.06) within the first 6-months of treatment. CONCLUSIONS: HIV-infected adults presenting with KS have increased risk of mortality even after initiation of ART with the greatest risk in the first year. Among those who survive the first year on therapy, subjects with KS demonstrated a poorer immunologic response to ART than those without KS.