OBJECTIVE: To identify predictors of faster time to virological suppression among infants starting combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) early in infancy.
DESIGN: Cohort study of infants from Europe and Thailand included in studies participating in the European Pregnancy and Paediatric HIV Cohort Collaboration.
METHODS: Infants with perinatal HIV starting cART aged less than 6 months with at least 1 viral load measurement within 15 months of cART initiation were included. Multivariable interval-censored flexible parametric proportional hazards models were used to assess predictors of faster virological suppression, with timing of suppression assumed to lie in the interval between last viral load at least 400 and first viral load less than 400 copies/ml.
RESULTS: Of 420 infants, 59% were female and 56% from Central/Western Europe, 26% United Kingdom/Ireland, 15% Eastern Europe and 3% Thailand; 46 and 54% started a boosted protease inhibitor-based or nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based regimen, respectively. At cART initiation, the median age, CD4% and viral load were 2.9 [interquartile range (IQR): 1.4-4.1] months, 34 (IQR: 24-45)% and 5.5 (IQR: 4.5-6.0) log10 copies/ml, respectively. Overall, an estimated 89% (95% confidence interval: 86-92%) achieved virological suppression within 12 months of cART start. In multivariable analysis, younger age [adjusted hazard ratio (aHR): 0.84 per month older; P < 0.001], higher CD4% (aHR: 1.11 per 10% higher; P = 0.010) and lower log10 viral load (aHR: 0.85 per log10 higher; P < 0.001) at cART initiation independently predicted faster virological suppression.
CONCLUSION: We observed a significant independent effect of age at cART initiation, even within a narrow 6 months window from birth. These findings support the earliest feasible cART initiation in infants and suggest that early therapy influences key virological and immunological parameters that could have important consequences for long-term health.