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BACKGROUND: Co-trimoxazole prophylaxis can reduce mortality from untreated HIV infection in Africa; whether benefits occur alongside combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) is unclear. We estimated the effect of prophylaxis after ART initiation in adults. METHODS: Participants in our observational analysis were from the DART randomised trial of management strategies in HIV-infected, symptomatic, previously untreated African adults starting triple-drug ART with CD4 counts lower than 200 cells per muL. Co-trimoxazole prophylaxis was not routinely used or randomly allocated, but was variably prescribed by clinicians. We estimated effects on clinical outcomes, CD4 cell count, and body-mass index (BMI) using marginal structural models to adjust for time-dependent confounding by indication. DART was registered, number ISRCTN13968779. FINDINGS: 3179 participants contributed 14 214 years of follow-up (8128 [57%] person-years on co-trimoxazole). Time-dependent predictors of co-trimoxazole use were current CD4 cell count, haemoglobin concentration, BMI, and previous WHO stage 3 or 4 events on ART. Present prophylaxis significantly reduced mortality (odds ratio 0.65, 95% CI 0.50-0.85; p=0.001). Mortality risk reduction on ART was substantial to 12 weeks (0.41, 0.27-0.65), sustained from 12-72 weeks (0.56, 0.37-0.86), but not evident subsequently (0.96, 0.63-1.45; heterogeneity p=0.02). Variation in mortality reduction was not accounted for by time on co-trimoxazole or current CD4 cell count. Prophylaxis reduced frequency of malaria (0.74, 0.63-0.88; p=0.0005), an effect that was maintained with time, but we observed no effect on new WHO stage 4 events (0.86, 0.69-1.07; p=0.17), CD4 cell count (difference vs non-users, -3 cells per muL [-12 to 6]; p=0.50), or BMI (difference vs non-users, -0.04 kg/m(2) [-0.20 to 0.13); p=0.68]. INTERPRETATION: Our results reinforce WHO guidelines and provide strong motivation for provision of co-trimoxazole prophylaxis for at least 72 weeks for all adults starting combination ART in Africa. FUNDING: UK Medical Research Council, the UK Department for International Development, the Rockefeller Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, Gilead Sciences, Boehringer-Ingelheim, and Abbott Laboratories.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1278 - 1286


AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections, Adult, Anti-Infective Agents, Anti-Retroviral Agents, CD4 Lymphocyte Count, Drug Administration Schedule, Drug Combinations, Drug Therapy, Combination, HIV Infections, Humans, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination, Uganda, Zimbabwe