Population-based cohorts of diagnosed people living with HIV (PLWH) are limited worldwide. In Ontario, linked HIV diagnostic and viral load (VL) test databases are centralised and contain laboratory data commonly used to measure engagement in HIV care. We used these linked databases to create a population-based, retrospective cohort of diagnosed PLWH in Ontario, Canada.
A datamart was created by integrating diagnostic and VL databases and linking records at the individual level. These databases contain information on laboratory test results and sociodemographic/clinical information collected on requisition/surveillance forms. Datamart individuals enter our cohort with the first record of a nominal HIV-positive diagnostic test (1985–2015) or VL test (1996–2015), and remain unless administratively lost to follow-up (LTFU; no VL test for >2 years and no VL test in later years). Non-nominal diagnostic tests are excluded as they lack identifying information to permit linkage to other tests. However, individuals diagnosed non-nominally are included in the cohort with record of a VL test. The LTFU rule is applied to indirectly censor for death/out-migration.
Findings to date
As of the end of 2015, the datamart contained 40 372 HIV-positive diagnostic tests and 23 851 individuals with ≥1 VL test. Almost half (46.3%) of the diagnostic tests were non-nominal and excluded, although this was lower (~15%) in recent years. Overall, 29 587 individuals have entered the cohort—contributing 229 302 person-years of follow-up since 1996. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of diagnosed PLWH (cohort individuals not LTFU) increased from 8859 to 16 110, and the percent who were aged ≥45 years increased from 29.1% to 62.6%. The percent of diagnosed PLWH who were virally suppressed (<200 copies/mL) increased from 40.7% in 2000 to 79.5% in 2015.
We plan to conduct further analyses of HIV care engagement and link to administrative databases with information on death, migration, physician billing claims and prescriptions. Linkage to other data sources will address cohort limitations and expand research opportunities.