Olof Elvstam , Patrik Medstrand , Aylin Yilmaz , Per-Erik Isberg , Magnus Gisslén , Per Björkman 
Affiliates:  Department of Translational Medicine, Clinical Infection Medicine Unit, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden.  Department of Translational Medicine, Clinical Virology, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden.  Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Infectious Diseases, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.  Department of Statistics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Although most HIV-infected individuals achieve undetectable viremia during antiretroviral therapy (ART), a subset have low-level viremia (LLV) of varying duration and magnitude. The impact of LLV on treatment outcomes is unclear. We investigated the association between LLV and virological failure and/or all-cause mortality among Swedish patients receiving ART.
HIV-infected patients from two Swedish HIV centers were identified from the nationwide register InfCare HIV. Subjects aged ≥15 years with triple agent ART were included at 12 months after treatment initiation if ≥2 following viral load measurements were available. Patients with 2 consecutive HIV RNA values ≥1000 copies/mL at this time point were excluded. Participants were stratified into four categories depending on viremia profiles: permanently suppressed viremia (<50 copies/mL), LLV 50–199 copies/mL, LLV 200–999 copies/mL and viremia ≥1000 copies/mL. Association between all four viremia categories and all-cause death was calculated using survival analysis with viremia as a time-varying covariate, so that patients could change viremia category during follow-up. Association between the three lower categories and virological failure (≥2 consecutive measurements ≥1000 copies/mL) was calculated in a similar manner.
LLV 50–199 copies/mL was recorded in 70/1015 patients (6.9%) and LLV 200–999 copies/mL in 89 (8.8%) during 7812 person-years of follow-up (median 6.5 years). LLV 200–999 copies/mL was associated with virological failure (adjusted hazard ratio 3.14 [95% confidence interval 1.41–7.03, p<0.01]), whereas LLV 50–199 copies/mL was not (1.01 [0.34–4.31, p = 0.99]; median follow-up 4.5 years). LLV 200–999 copies/mL had an adjusted mortality hazard ratio of 2.29 (0.98–5.32, p = 0.05) and LLV 50–199 copies/mL of 2.19 (0.90–5.37, p = 0.09).
In this Swedish cohort followed during ART for a median of 4.5 years, LLV 200–999 copies/mL was independently associated with virological failure. Patients with LLV had higher rates of all-cause mortality, although not statistically significant in multivariate analysis.