Background: Short-term morbidity and mortality rates for HIV positive soldiers in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would inform decisions about deployment and HIV disease management. Risks were determined according to the latest CD4+ cell count and use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV positive individuals in the SANDF and their dependents. Methods and Findings: A total of 7,114 participants were enrolled and followed for mortality over a median of 4.7 years (IQR: 1.9, 7.1 years). For a planned subset (5,976), progression of disease (POD) and grade 4, potentially life-threatening events were also ascertained. CD4+ count and viral load were measured every 3 to 6 months. Poisson regression was used to compare event rates by latest CD4+ count (<50, 50 -99, 100-199, 200-349, 350-499, 500+) with a focus on upper three strata, and to estimate relative risks (RRs) (ART/no ART). Median entry CD4+ was 207 cells/mm3. During follow-up over 70% were prescribed ART. Over follow-up 1,226 participants died; rates ranged from 57.6 (< 50 cells) to 0.8 (500+ cells) per 100 person years (py). Compared to those with latest CD4+ 200-349 (2.2/100py), death rates were significantly lower (p<0.001), as expected, for those with 350-499 (0.9/100py) and with 500+ cells (0.8/100py). The composite outcome of death, POD or grade 4 events occurred in 2,302 participants (4,045 events); rates were similar in higher CD4+ count strata (9.4 for 350-499 and 7.9 for 500+ cells) and lower than those with counts 200-349 cells (13.5) (p<0.001). For those with latest CD4+ 350+ cells, 63% of the composite outcomes (680 of 1,074) were grade 4 events. Conclusion: Rates of morbidity and mortality are lowest among those with CD4+ count of 350 or higher and rates do not differ for those with counts of 350-499 versus 500+ cells. Grade 4 events are the predominant morbidity for participants with CD4+ counts of 350+ cells.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Several of the staff for Project Phidisa in South Africa were employed by Charisma Healthcare Solutions. They were 100% paid by Charisma with a grant from NIH. This does not alter the authors' adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.
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