The ATHENA cohort


SHM was founded following the successful AIDS Therapy Evaluation in the Netherlands study (ATHENA). The research study was set up soon after the introduction of combination therapy in 1996, for people living with HIV. At the time, availability of these new HIV inhibitors was actively promoted by the Dutch minister of Health. However because people also thought combination therapy could fail because of drug resistance, a research study, the ATHENA cohort, was set up to closely monitor the effects of the hiv medication program. 

Dramatically positive effects

The ATHENA study was carried out among 3600 people living with HIV in the Netherlands. Combination therapy showed all-round positive effects: fewer people developed AIDS and fewer people died of AIDS. In addition, regular treatment with combination therapy proved to be cost-effective. The ATHENA study therefore extended to include all people living with HIV in the Netherlands, leading to the foundation of SHM in 2001. In 2002, SHM was officially appointed by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to monitor the HIV epidemic and the quality of HIV care in the Netherlands. To this day, together with the HIV treatment centres in the Netherlands, SHM contributes to improving the quality of HIV care in the Netherlands. 

ATHENA cohort profile

Details of the AIDS Therapy Evaluation in the Netherlands (ATHENA) cohort are published in BMJ Open in September 2018. The open access paper provides a comprehensive description of the study population, the registration and enrolment process, and SHM’s data collection methods. In addition, the publication presents an overview of the key findings generated by ATHENA since its inception in 1998 and describes the strengths and limitations of the cohort.

Download the ATHENA cohort profile here.