Frequencies of opportunistic diseases prior to death among HIV-infected persons

Ivan S.F. Chan, Jim Neaton, Louis D. Saravolatz, Lawrence R. Crane, James Osterberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Objectives: To describe the complete history of major opportunistic events experienced by 1883 HIV-infected persons prior to and specifically within 6 months of death, and to determine whether the frequency of specific events varies according to demographic characteristics, risk behaviors or geographic location. Design: Descriptive case series. Methods: Of 6682 HIV-infected individuals enrolled in studies sponsored by the Community Programs for Clinical Research on AIDS between September 1990 and June 1994, 1883 died during follow-up. A complete history of AIDS-defining events was determined for these patients by combining medical history data obtained at the time of enrollment, new events that occurred during follow-up, and causes of death. Results: The most common opportunistic AIDS-defining events these 1883 patients experienced before death were Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP; 45%), Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC; 25%), wasting syndrome (25%), bacterial pneumonia (24%), cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease (23%) and candidiasis (esophageal or pulmonary; 22%). In addition, 47% of patients experienced two or three AIDS-defining events before death, and 22% experienced four or more events. In the 6 months prior to death, 22% of patients had PCP, 21% had MAC, and 20% had CMV disease. Significant sex and ethnic differences were found: bacterial pneumonia occurred more often before death in women compared with men; fewer blacks and Latinos than whites experienced Kaposi's sarcoma (KS); and fewer blacks than whites had CMV disease before death. The percentage of patients with KS and CMV also varied by risk behavior. The frequency of 10 opportunistic diseases varied by geographic region after adjustment for demographic characteristics and risk behavior. Of note, many more patients in northeastern USA had tuberculosis and fewer had MAC. Conclusion: A large percentage of individuals with HIV infection experienced multiple AIDS-defining opportunistic diseases before death. PCP, MAC, wasting syndrome, bacterial pneumonia, CMV disease, and candidiasis (esophageal or pulmonary) account for a substantial proportion of morbidity associated with HIV infection. More diseases varied by geographic location than by demographic characteristics or risk behavior of patients. Continued research on the etiology and prevention of these diseases and how they relate to one another should be a high priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1145-1151
Number of pages7
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 1995


  • AIDS
  • Death
  • HIV
  • Opportunistic diseases

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