Has the rate of CD4 cell count decline before initiation of antiretroviral therapy changed over the course of the Dutch HIV epidemic among MSM?

Luuk A. Gras*, Ronald B Geskus, Suzanne Jurriaans, Margreet Bakker, Ard van Sighem, Daniela Bezemer, Christophe Fraser, Jan M. Prins, Ben Berkhout, ATHENA National Observational Cohort, Selwyn Lowe, Astrid Oude Lashof, Frank de Wolf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Studies suggest that the HIV-1 epidemic in the Netherlands may have become more virulent, leading to faster disease progression if untreated. Analysis of CD4 cell count decline before antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation, a surrogate marker for disease progression, may be hampered by informative censoring as ART initiation is more likely with a steeper CD4 cell count decline.

METHODS: Development of CD4 cell count from 9 to 48 months after seroconversion was analyzed using a mixed-effects model and 2 models that jointly modeled CD4 cell counts and time to censoring event (start ART, <100 CD4 cells/mm³, or AIDS) among therapy-naïve MSM HIV-1 seroconverters in the Netherlands. These models make different assumptions about the censoring process.

RESULTS: All 3 models estimated lower median CD4 cell counts 9 months after seroconversion in later calendar years (623, 582, and 541 cells/mm³ for 1984-1995 [n = 111], 1996-2002 [n = 139], and 2003-2007 seroconverters [n = 356], respectively, shared-parameter model). Only the 2 joint-models found a trend for a steeper decline of CD4 cell counts with seroconversion in later calendar years (overall p-values 0.002 and 0.06 for the pattern-mixture and the shared-parameter model, respectively). In the shared-parameter model the median decline from 9 to 48 months was 276 cellsmm³ for 1984-1995 seroconverters and 308 cells/mm³ for 2003-2007 seroconverters (difference in slope, p = 0.045).

CONCLUSION: Mixed-effects models underestimate the CD4 cell decline prior to starting ART. Joint-models suggest that CD4 cell count declines more rapidly in patients infected between 2003 and 2007 compared to patients infected before 1996.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64437
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Adult
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • HIV Infections
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Cite this