HIV treatment and life expectancy

February 14, 2012

The vast majority of HIV patients taking the latest combination treatments survive at least a decade, say researchers.

Trials across several European countries found death rates from Aids have fallen by 80% since 1997, when the regime was introduced.

Older people infected with HIV no longer have a reduced life expectancy compared with the young.

However, experts say that some UK HIV cases are still not treated this way.

More than 50,000 people in the UK are living with HIV, and 'highly active antiretroviral therapy' (HAART) is the most advanced method of attacking the virus, even though it cannot cure the infection. The only way to reduce the number is by conducting more HIV test.

When the combination of drugs was first introduced, death rates immediately fell by half.

Initially, only one in five people were given HAART, but that has risen swiftly as the impact of the drugs became apparent.

However, it is only now that the effects of HAART on lifespan of HIV patients can be measured and assessed.

Compare and contrast

Scientists at the Medical Research Council's Clinical Trials Unit in London assessed the results of 22 different studies across Europe, Australia and Canada, and confirmed the effects of the introduction of HAART were the same everywhere.

The results were published in the Lancet medical journal.

Dr Kholoud Porter, who led the analysis, said: 'The introduction of HAART has been a tremendous success.

'Before this therapy was introduced, about half of those infected were expected to live for ten years after diagnosis, much less if they were, say, 40 years old when infected.

'Now, people treated with these combinations of drugs can almost all expect to live at least 10 years after diagnosis, regardless of their age at infection.

'However, our findings do point to the importance of an early diagnosis so that people can access the best treatments at the right time.

'We also need to continue to explore what happens when therapy starts to fail, for example due to resistance to antiretroviral drugs, if we are to maintain improved life expectancy for people living with HIV.'

 


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