Late diagnosis of
HIV remains a serious problem across Europe, results of a large study published
in PLOS Medicine show.
involved approximately 85,000 people diagnosed with HIV between 2000 and 2011
in 35 European countries. Overall, 54% of patients were diagnosed late and a
third presented very late. There was a fall in the proportion of people being diagnosed late, but in 2010/11 over half of patients were still presenting for care
with a CD4 cell low enough to warrant immediate antiretroviral therapy.
remains a significant issue across Europe and in all HIV exposure groups,”
comment the authors. “Late presentation was associated with an increased rate
of AIDS/deaths, particularly in the first year after HIV diagnosis.” The
investigators believe their findings have important implications for HIV
has analysed late diagnosis rates in individual countries, but little is known
about trends across Europe and data from Eastern Europe are especially scarce.
the Collaboration of Observational HIV Epidemiological Research Europe (COHERE)
study therefore examined trends and risk factors for late diagnosis between
2000 and 2011. Their study included 84,524 people who presented for HIV care
in 35 countries.
considered to have been diagnosed late if they had a CD4 cell count below 350 cells/mm3 at
the time of presentation or developed an AIDS-defining illness within six
months of entering care. Very late diagnosis was defined as presentation with a CD4 cell
count below 200 cells/mm3.
Overall, 54% of
patients were diagnosed late. Rates of late presentation were especially high
among heterosexual men (66%), individuals originating from Africa (65%) and
patients receiving care in southern Europe (57%).
The data also
showed that 8% of patients had not engaged with HIV care three months after
their diagnosis. Among patients diagnosed late, 7% had delayed entry into care.
But there were
some encouraging data. The rate of late diagnosis declined from 57% in 2000 to
52% in 2010/10. The average CD4 cell count at the time of presentation
increased over the same period, from a median of 306 cells/mm3 in
2000 to a median of 363 cells/mm3 in 2009.
factors were associated with late presentation. Each ten-year increase in age
increased the risk of late diagnosis by 41% (OR = 1.41; 95% CI, 1.39-1.43).
People from Africa had higher odds of late diagnosis (OR = 1.75; 95% CI,
1.66-1.84), as did people from other regions (OR = 1.40; 95% CI,
1.32-1.48), compared to people from Europe.
The risk of late
presentation was lower for men who have sex with men (MSM) than all other risk
groups. People receiving care in southern Europe were more likely to be
diagnosed late than individuals under care in central Europe (OR = 1.41; 95%
There was a marked
fall in the proportion of gay men and heterosexual people in central and northern Europe diagnosed
late over the course of the study. The rate of late presentation also decreased
over time among heterosexual women in eastern Europe from 56 to 34%.
However, the rate
of late diagnoses increased in male injecting drug users in southern Europe
and among male and female injecting drug users in eastern Europe.
Late presentation was associated with adverse outcomes. In the entire study population there
were 8187 new cases of AIDS or deaths during 327,000 person years of
follow-up. Late presentation or very late presentation significantly increased
the risk of AIDS/death in the first two years after entry into HIV care (p <
AIDS/death in the first year after late presentation were highest among people in southern Europe (adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR] 13.02; 95%
CI, 8.19-20.70). In the second year after diagnosis, late presentation was
associated with higher rates of AIDS/death among people from southern, central and northern Europe. In southern Europe, late presentation continued to
be associated with an increased risk of AIDS/death more than two years after
diagnosis (aIRR = 1.38; 95% CI, 1.01-1.88).
continue to test late for HIV with consequences in terms of poor prognosis, an
increased risk of onward transmission, increased costs to health systems, and
suboptimal benefits of ART,” comment the authors. “Increasing awareness of HIV
risk factors, increased opportunities for testing, reducing barriers to
testing, and increasing the availability of effective ART will help address
ongoing HIV transmissions across Europe, and especially in Eastern Europe where
the number of newly diagnosed infections continues to be very high.”