The use of intensive care units (ICU) resources for HIV-Infected patients has been controversial since the first reported cases, raising practical ethical and economic issues about aggressive treatment. The aim of this review of the literature is to provide current information on the epidemiology of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients admitted to ICU during the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and to highlight issues related to HAART that are relevant to the intensivist. Overall mortality of critically ill HIV-infected patients in ICU has decreased in the HAART era and patients are more commonly admitted with non-HIV-related illnesses. Use of HAART in ICU is problematic, however it may be associated with improved outcomes. More HIV-infected patients surviving ICU admission are more likely to need critical care for problems unrelated to HIV infection or for conditions related to HAART toxicity. Intensivists need to be familiar with HAART (i) to recognize life-threatening toxicities unique to these drugs; (ii) to avoid drug interactions, which are extremely common and potentially life-threatening; (iii) to avoid enhancing HIV drug resistance, an occurrence that could have devastating consequences for the patient following ICU discharge.
Keywords: HIV infection, epidemiology, hospitalization, critically ill patients, ICU, highly active antiretroviral therapy