Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

HIV & AIDS Health Center

Font Size

HIV Drugs Improve, but Not Death Rate

'HAART' Treatment Is Effective, but Many Patients Are Now Sicker When They First Get Treated
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 3, 2006 -- Ten years after the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), HIV treatment continues to improve, with today's drug regimens eliciting better viral control than those of the past with far fewer serious side effects.

Yet despite the steady evolution of HIV therapy, a newly released study shows no corresponding decline in death rates or progression to AIDS among patients from North America and Europe who were followed for up to a year.

Just over 22,000 patients starting therapy for the first time were included in the study, which appears tomorrow in the journal The Lancet.

The findings do not mean that HAART is not saving lives or keeping HIV-infected people from developing AIDS.

All agree that today's drug regimens are remarkably effective. So effective, in fact, that one study found the nine out of 10 patients who stay on the treatment can expect to live for more than a decade.

Rather, the findings seem to reflect the changing face of HIV infection in Europe and North America, experts say.

Changing Demographics

Researchers found that in 2003, patients tended to be sicker when they started treatment than those beginning treatment in 1995. And that the number of AIDS cases seen in recent years is related to an increase in cases of tuberculosis.

Compared with patients starting HAART for the first time in 1995, those starting therapy in 2003 were far more likely to be female and infected with HIV through heterosexual rather than homosexual contact.


  • The percentage of female patients starting therapy increased from 16% in 1995-1996 to 32% by 2002-2003.
  • During the same period, the percentage of men who became infected through sexual contact with men declined from 56% to 34%.
  • The percentage of patients presumed to have become infected via heterosexual contact increased from 20% in 1995-1996 to 47% in 2002-2003.
  • The percentage of patients infected via injected drug use declined from 20% in 1997 to 9% in 2002-2003.

The study suggests that homosexual men have benefited the most from HAART. The best viral responses to therapy have been seen among this group, while women and men infected via heterosexual contact have not benefited as much.

Today on WebMD

How much do you know?
contemplative man
What to do now.
Should you be tested?
HIV under microscope
What does it mean?
HIV AIDS Screening
man opening condom wrapper
HIV AIDS Treatment
Discrimination Stigma
Treatment Side Effects
grilled chicken and vegetables
obese man standing on scale
cold sore