The impact of HIV infection on clinical presentation and mortality among persons with hepatocellular carcinoma in Kampala, Uganda

Sara K. Nsibirwa, Jim Aizire, Julie Nabweteme Mugerwa, David L. Thomas, Ponsiano Ocama, Gregory D. Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: HIV infection is associated with more rapid progression of some comorbidities. This study assessed the impact of HIV-infection on the presentation and outcome of HCC. Methods: HCC patients attending the Mulago National Referral Hospital in Uganda were enrolled into a natural history study of HCC between March 2015 and February 2019. Standardized methods were used to collect clinical, ultrasound and laboratory data at enrolment. HCC cases were confirmed and enrolled based on a combination of clinical, ultrasound, tumor marker and pathology data. Follow-up contact was made at one, three, six, and twelve months post-enrolment to determine vital status. Symptoms and signs at diagnosis and subsequent survival were compared by HIV status. Kaplan Meier curves were used to assess HCC survival. Results: Of 441 persons with HCC, 383 (87.0%) died within 12 months following HCC diagnosis. The median (IQR) survival was 42 (20, 106) days. HIV infection was present in 79 (18%) cases. After adjusting for baseline demographic and clinical characteristics, HIV infection was associated with increased mortality but only among those with severe HIV-associated immunosuppression (CD4 count < 200 cells per cubic milliliter), aHR (95% C) = 2.12 (1.23–3.53), p = 0.004, and not among PLWH with ≥ 200 CD4 cells per cubic milliliter, aHR (95% C) = 1.15 (0.82–1.60), p = 0.417. Conclusion: Among relatively young Ugandans, HCC is a devastating disease with rapid mortality that is especially rapid among people living with HIV(PLWH). HIV was associated with slightly higher mortality, notably among PLWH with lower CD4 cell counts. As a substantial majority of PLWH diagnosed with HCC were engaged in HIV care, further investigation should determine the effectiveness of incorporating screening and early identification of HCC among high-risk individuals into existing HIV care programs. Concurrent with growing access to curative localized treatment for HCC in sub-Saharan Africa, leveraging HIV care infrastructure affords opportunities for earlier HCC intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number216
JournalBMC infectious diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Mortality
  • Sub-saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases


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