In developing countries, patients often present late with advanced AIDS and a very low CD4 cell count. A retrospective cohort study was conducted in HIV-infected patients who had been initiated into highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) with CD4 cell count < 50 cells/mm3. There were 159 patients of mean age 36.6 years and 60.4% had previous major opportunistic infections. Mean CD4 was 22 cells/mm3 and 80% had HIV RNA > 100,000 copies/mL. The majority of HAART regimens is non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based (81.8%). In as-treated analysis, 50, 71.2, 79.7, 79.4, and 80.1% of patients achieved undetectable HIV RNA (< 50 copies/mL) at 12, 24, 36, 48, and 60 weeks, respectively. The corresponding mean CD4 counts were 95, 125, 166, 201, and 225 cells/mm3. Twenty two patients (13.8%) had adverse drug events and half of these had to discontinue HAART. Initiation of HAART in advanced AIDS with CD4 cell count < 50 cells/mm3 is effective, safe, and well tolerated and should not be delayed.
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