The ATHENA cohort


SHM was founded as a result of the successful AIDS Therapy Evaluation in the Netherlands project (ATHENA). This project was set up following the introduction of combination therapy in 1996, which was prescribed to a large number of people living with HIV. At the time, availability of these new HIV inhibitors was accelerated by the minister of Health, but there was a fear that the combination therapy would fail because of drug resistance. Therefore, a large research study, the ATHENA cohort study, was conducted from 1998 to 2001 to examine the effects of accelerated access. 

Dramatically positive effects

The ATHENA study was carried out among 3600 people living with HIV and proved to be highly successful. The combination therapy showed dramatically positive effects: fewer people developed AIDS and fewer people died from AIDS. In addition, regular treatment with combination therapy proved to be cost-effective. This research was continued and extended to include all people living with HIV, leading to the foundation of SHM in 2001. As of 2002, SHM was officially charged by the Dutch minister of Health, Welfare and Sport to monitor the HIV epidemic and the quality of HIV care in the Netherlands. Together with the HIV treatment centres, SHM contributes to improving the quality of HIV care in the Netherlands. 

ATHENA cohort profile

A profile of the AIDS Therapy Evaluation in the Netherlands (ATHENA) cohort was published in BMJ Open in September 2018. This open access profile provides a comprehensive description of the population followed in ATHENA, 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.