Objective: To determine long-term effects of early vs. delayed initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on immune recovery and tuberculosis (TB) risk in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected individuals.
Design: Open-label randomized controlled trial of immediate ART in HIV-infected adults with CD4 counts between 200 and 350 cells/mm(3) vs. deferring ART until the CD4 count was
Results: A total of 816 participants were enrolled, with 408 in each treatment arm. The early treatment group started ART within 2 weeks, while the deferred treatment group started ART a median of 1.3 years after enrollment. After 5 years, the mean CD4 count in the early treatment group was significantly higher than in the deferred treatment group (496 cells/mm(3), 95% confidence interval [CI] 477-515 vs. 373 cells/mm(3), 95%CI 357-389; P < 0.0001). TB risk was higher in the deferred treatment group (unadjusted HR 2.41, 95%CI 1.56-3.74; P < 0.0001) and strongly correlated with lower CD4 counts in time-dependent multivariate analysis.
Conclusion: Delays in ART initiation for HIV-infected adults with CD4 counts of 200-350 cells/mm(3) can result in long-term immune dysfunction and persistent increased risk for TB