Purpose: To evaluate the risk of cataract in the setting of AIDS. Design: Prospective cohort study. Participants: Subjects with AIDS free of ocular opportunistic infections throughout catamnesis. Methods: From 1998 through 2008, subjects 13 years of age or older were enrolled. Demographic characteristics and clinical characteristics were documented at enrollment and semiannually. Main Outcome Measures: Cataract was defined as high-grade lens opacity observed by biomicroscopy judged to be the cause of a best-corrected visual acuity worse than 20/40. Eyes that underwent cataract surgery during follow-up were considered to have developed cataract before the first visit when pseudophakia or aphakia was observed. Results: Among 1606 participants (3212 eyes) at enrollment, 1.9% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.3%-2.7%) were observed to have cataract or prior cataract surgery. Among the 2812 eyes initially free of cataract and followed longitudinally (median follow-up, 4.6 years), the incidence of cataract was 0.37%/eye-year (95% CI: 0.26%-0.53%). In addition to age, significant cataract risk factors included prior cataract in the contralateral eye (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 21.6; 95% CI: 10.4-44.8), anterior segment inflammation (aHR, 4.40; 95% CI: 1.64-11.9), prior retinal detachment (aHR, 4.94; 95% CI: 2.21-11.0), and vitreous inflammation (aHR, 7.12; 95% CI: 2.02-25.0), each studied as a time-updated characteristic. Detectable human immunodeficiency virus RNA in peripheral blood was associated with lower risk of cataract at enrollment (adjusted odds ratio, 0.32; 95% CI: 0.12-0.80) but not of incident cataract (aHR, 1.58; 95% CI: 0.90-2.76). After adjustment for other factors, neither the then-current absolute CD4+ T-cell count nor antiretroviral therapy status showed consistent association with cataract risk, nor did an additive diagnosis of other comorbidities. Compared with the available population-based studies that used similar definitions of cataract, the age-specific prevalence of cataract in our cohort was higher than in 1 of 2 such studies, and the age-specific incidence of cataract surgery was higher. Conclusions: Our results suggest cataract may occur earlier among patients with AIDS free of ocular opportunistic infections than in the general population. Cataract risk was associated most strongly with age and with other ocular morbidity in this population. With improved survival, the burden of cataract likely will increase for persons with the human immunodeficiency virus or AIDS.
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