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HIV-1 RNA plasma concentration at viral set-point is associated not only with disease outcome but also with the transmission dynamics of HIV-1. We investigated whether plasma HIV-1 RNA concentration and CD4 cell count at viral set-point have changed over time in the HIV epidemic in the Netherlands.We selected 906 therapy-naïve patients with at least one plasma HIV-1 RNA concentration measured 9 to 27 months after estimated seroconversion. Changes in HIV-1 RNA and CD4 cell count at viral set-point over time were analysed using linear regression models. The ATHENA national observational cohort contributed all patients who seroconverted in or after 1996; the Amsterdam Cohort Studies (ACS) contributed seroconverters before 1996. The mean of the first HIV-1 RNA concentration measured 9-27 months after seroconversion was 4.30 log(10) copies/ml (95% CI 4.17-4.42) for seroconverters from 1984 through 1995 (n = 163); 4.27 (4.16-4.37) for seroconverters 1996-2002 (n = 232), and 4.59 (4.52-4.66) for seroconverters 2003-2007 (n = 511). Compared to patients seroconverting between 2003-2007, the adjusted mean HIV-1 RNA concentration at set-point was 0.28 log(10) copies/ml (95% CI 0.16-0.40; p<0.0001) and 0.26 (0.11-0.41; p = 0.0006) lower for those seroconverting between 1996-2002 and 1984-1995, respectively. Results were robust regardless of type of HIV-1 RNA assay, HIV-1 subtype, and interval between measurement and seroconversion. CD4 cell count at viral set-point declined over calendar time at approximately 5 cells/mm(3)/year.The HIV-1 RNA plasma concentration at viral set-point has increased over the last decade of the HIV epidemic in the Netherlands. This is accompanied by a decreasing CD4 cell count over the period 1984-2007 and may have implications for both the course of the HIV infection and the epidemic.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





Stichting HIV Monitoring, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


ATHENA National Observational Cohort Study, Humans, HIV-1, HIV Infections, HIV Seropositivity, RNA, Viral, CD4 Lymphocyte Count, Treatment Outcome, Viral Load, Time Factors, Adult, Netherlands, Female, Male