The shifting picture of HIV treatment, comorbidity and substance use among US MSM living with HIV

G. D’Souza*, L. Benning, V. Stosor, M. D. Witt, J. Johnson, M. Friedman, A. G. Abraham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: People living with HIV (PLWH) have increased risk of chronic disease and poor mental health. We aimed to explore HIV disease indicators, comorbidity, and risk behavior of recent antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiators to inform current needs of PLWH. Methods: Men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) who initiated ART between 2010 and 2018 (recent initiators) were compared with age-, race- and geographic location-matched men who initiated ART during 2000–2009 (early initiators). Measures of HIV disease, behavior, comorbidity and mental health were collected prospectively every 6 months using standardized forms. Results: Recent initiators had higher current CD4 (median CD4 451 vs. 307 cells/μL, P < 0.0001) and nadir CD4 (451 vs. 300 cells/μL, P < 0.0001) than earlier initiators. The proportion achieving viral suppression within a year of starting ART was significantly higher in recent compared with earlier initiators (92% vs. 74%, P < 0.0001). Median [interquartile range (IQR)] time from HIV diagnosis to ART initiation was 5.4 (1.7–23.1) months in recent initiators. Comorbidity prevalence was high in recent initiators, including obesity (24%), hypertension (25%) and kidney disease (15%). Substance use continues to be common, including cigarette use (40%), daily alcohol use (88%) and marijuana use (46%). Conclusions: Improvements in getting individuals onto ART at an early stage have led to substantially higher CD4 cell counts at initiation. However, the high burden of comorbidity, substance use and poor mental health affecting MSM living with HIV in the US underscore ongoing challenges and our need to adapt and coordinate care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-546
Number of pages9
JournalHIV Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • ART initiation
  • HIV
  • MACS
  • comorbidity
  • condomless sex
  • suppressed viral load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Health Policy


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