Background The primary aim of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is to reduce morbidity and mortality due to chronic HIV infection. Central to ART is viral suppression, and this has been used as a proxy for disease burden. BHIVA guidelines recommend that patients achieve undetectable viral loads (<50 copies/mL) within 6 months of initiating ART.
Aim To assess the proportion of patients achieving undetectable viral loads within 6 and 12 months of initiating ART at a dual-site HIV service in Grampian.
Methods A retrospective case notes review was conducted of HIV-positive patients attending clinics between January 2013 and December 2013. Data was collected using a standardised proforma and imported into SPSS 23 for statistical analysis.
Results Twenty-four case notes were audited (GUM = 15, ID = 9). The median age of patients was 39.5 years. Median baseline viral load and CD4 count were 77,355 copies/mL and 382 respectively. Overall, 70.8% of patients achieved undetectable viral load within 6 months and 95.8% achieved undetectable viral loads within 12 months (mean = 4.48 months, 95% CI = 3.50–5.70). A Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed that patients with a baseline viral load of <100,000 copies/mL achieved undetectable viral load sooner compared to those with >100,000 copies/mL (3.43 months, 95% CI = 2.34–3.66 vs. 6.11 months, 95% CI = 4.28–7.94; log-rank p = 0.013).
Conclusion This audit has identified potential barriers to viral suppression, such as late diagnosis and late commencement of ART. These areas must be addressed to ensure the target of 75% of patients with an undetectable viral load within 6 months of initiating ART can be achieved.