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Occurrence of Gastrointestinal Opportunistic Disorders in AIDS Despite the Use of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy

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Since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), the frequency of opportunistic disorders (ODs) of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected patients has fallen dramatically. We have found, however, that despite the use of HAART, HIV–infected patients can still present with GI ODs. To evaluate the prevalence of GI ODs in HIV-infected patients on HAART who were undergoing endoscopic evaluation for GI-related symptoms. From January 1996 through February 2002, all HIV-infected patients undergoing GI endoscopy were prospectively identified; mucosal biopsies were obtained in a standardized fashion and histologic specimens were examined by a single GI pathologist. All the patients on HAART presenting with a GI OD are described. Results showed that 294 patients (88% men; mean age, 36.5 ± 10 years; median CD4 lymphocyte count, 64 cells/μl; range, 1–884; median viral RNA level, 40,357 copies/ml; range, 0–7,721,715) underwent 401 upper and/or lower endoscopies during the study period. The use of HAART increased from 10% in early 1996 to 85% in 2002. Nevertheless we found that 27 patients (9%) presented with a GI OD despite HAART. Forty percent of the patients with a GI OD were noncompliant with HAART. We conclude that GI ODs can occur despite HAART and normal CD4 counts. The prevalence of GI ODs in HIV-infected patients taking HAART is 9%. The reasons for this are multifactorial and likely include noncompliance with medications, viral resistance to the drugs, and decreased drug bioavailability. Although the use of HAART has led to a decreased incidence of GI ODs in AIDS, the gastroenterologist evaluating these patients should not discard the possibility that the GI symptoms in HIV-infected patients taking HAART may be secondary to an OD, even when the CD4 count is normal and the viral load is low.

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Correspondence to Klaus E. Mönkemüller MD.

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Mönkemüller, K.E., Lazenby, A.J., Lee, D.H. et al. Occurrence of Gastrointestinal Opportunistic Disorders in AIDS Despite the Use of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy. Dig Dis Sci 50, 230–234 (2005).

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