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The life expectancy of HIV-positive people has increased significantly
In some parts of the world, HIV patients receiving treatment today have almost the same life expectancy as the average population. This is the result of a recent study by international researchers. According to this, a young HIV-positive person who started therapy from 2008 could be around ten years older than a patient who was treated from the mid-1990s.
Researchers are studying the effects of modern HIV therapies
The life expectancy of young HIV-infected people in the United States and Europe is significantly higher today if treated appropriately than 20 years ago. This emerges from the report of an international team of researchers, which was published in the specialist magazine "The Lancet HIV". The team led by study leader Adam Trickey from the University of Bristol had dealt with the question of how the improved medical care of HIV-positive people has had an impact in recent decades.
Combination of several active ingredients
For their study, the scientists evaluated data from a total of 88,504 people with HIV from 18 European and North American studies, according to the University of Bristol. The patients were all over 16 years of age and had started antiretroviral therapy (ART) between 1996 and 2010. In this, several active ingredients are combined to curb the reproduction of the HI virus. The modern combination therapies cannot cure the disease, but they can significantly reduce the viral load.
In order to be able to estimate how ART affects life expectancy, the scientists examined how many of the subjects died during the first three years of their treatment and documented the cause of death, the HIV viral load, the number of CD4 helper cells in the immune system and whether the deceased had been infected by an injection of medication.
Patients can live up to 78 years
It was shown that young HIV-positive people can today reach almost the same age as the average of the population if the course of therapy is positive. According to this, a 20-year-old patient who started HIV treatment after 2008 and had a low viral load after one year could live up to 78 years. There is hardly any difference to non-infected people, because according to the 2013/2015 mortality table of the Federal Statistical Office, 30-year-old men on average are 79 years old in this country, 30-year-old women have a life expectancy of almost 84 years.
The evaluation showed that the life expectancy of 20-year-old patients with antiretroviral therapy increased by nine (women) and ten (men) years between 1996 and 2010. However, this does not apply to all people with HIV who are being treated. On average, life expectancy if those affected survived the first year of therapy was 73 years for men and 76 years for women. For those who were infected with the HIV virus by drug injection, the increase in life expectancy was not as high as in other groups, the researchers write.
Improved treatment options and fewer side effects
In general, the improvements are probably due to the transition to therapy with fewer side effects, and there are now more treatment options for people who are infected with a drug-resistant HIV strain. Furthermore, e.g. the treatment of concomitant health problems such as cardiovascular disease and cancer has been improved, the release said.
"Our research illustrates a success story of how improved HIV treatments, coupled with screening, prevention, and the treatment of health problems associated with HIV infection, can extend the lifespan of people with HIV," said Trickey, director of the School of Social and Community Medicine ”at the University of Bristol.
"[…] The newer drugs have fewer side effects, include fewer tablets, prevent virus replication and make resistance more difficult," said Trickey. According to the experts, however, further efforts are required to adapt the life expectancy of those affected to the general population.
Hope for better chances for HIV-positive people
The authors of the study now hope that their findings will help risky individuals to be less afraid of HIV tests in the future and that those affected will start antiretroviral therapy immediately after diagnosis. Furthermore, it is desirable that this can reduce the stigmatization of HIV-positive people and help those affected to find a job more easily, the scientists write. (No)