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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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Combo Therapy Boosts HIV Life Expectancy

Study Shows HIV Patients Are Living Longer Since Start of Antiretroviral Drug Therapy

Combination Therapy and HIV Life Expectancy continued...

Researchers found the average life expectancy for a 20-year-old diagnosed with HIV increased by more than 13 years during the study.

In addition, the study showed several factors were associated with HIV life expectancy, including:

  • Those treated later in the course of their infection had lower life expectancy than those treated early on.
  • Participants with lower infection-fighting white blood cell counts tended to have a lower life expectancy than others (32.4 years compared with 50.4 years).
  • Those who became infected with HIV through injected drug use had a shorter life expectancy (32.6 years) than those who became infected with HIV in other ways (44.7 years)
  • Women had a slightly longer life expectancy than men (44.2 vs. 42.8 years), which researchers say is probably due to the fact that women, on average, started their HIV treatment earlier in the course of HIV infection than men.

In a commentary that accompanies the study, David A. Cooper of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, says that with the advent of combination antiretroviral therapy the outlook for people with HIV has become less bleak and diagnosis has moved away from being an immediate death sentence.

"During the past 10 years, the discourse with patients has changed. They want to know how long they have to live. They want to plan their lives better. Should they consider life insurance, health insurance, or superannuation for retirement?"

Despite these positive results, researchers say more work is needed to close a nearly two-decade gap in life expectancy: An HIV-positive person who started on combination antiretroviral drug therapy at age 20 can expect to live to age 63 compared with an HIV-negative person in a wealthy country, who can expect to live around 80 years.

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