Study: Drug Combination Can Increase Life Expectancy In HIV Patients

A new studyStudy: Drug Combination Can Increase Life Expectancy In HIV Patients on HIV has revealed that patients who receive drug combinations can expect to live an average of 13 years longer. The researchers of a  new study on HIV life expectancy report in the Lancet medical journal, say that a person who started taking the drugs at age 20 could expect to live on average, another 43 years. The AIDS virus infects an estimated 33 million people across the globe and killed about 25 million since it first started in the 1980’s.

Robert Hogg of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, Canada and colleagues examined several studies of patients in the U.S., Canada and many European countries, which were given combination drugs known as highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART. This therapy utilizes a mixture of various drugs that target the virus in differing ways to lower the level of HIV in the body. The mixture of drugs is modified as the virus becomes resistant or when the side effects of the HIV treatment pose a problem.

"Between 1996-99 and 2003-05, there was a gain in life expectancy for those at age 20 years of about 13 years; similar gains in life expectancy in those aged 35 years were also seen. A person starting combination therapy can expect to live about 43 years at 20 years of age, about two-thirds as long as the general population in these countries," the researchers say. They based this on the calculation that average life expectancy for a 20-year-old who did not have HIV in these countries would be 80.

"These advances have transformed HIV from being a fatal disease, which was the reality for patients before the advent of combination treatment, into a long-term chronic condition," Hogg says.

The researchers have found that patients treated at a later stage and patients who got the infection via an injected drug did not live as long as those who were treated early. Though previous studies have found that combination antiretroviral drug therapy has increased the survival time and the quality of life for people with HIV, researchers say the impact on life expectancy on a population-wide level has not been examined until now.

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 people suffering from HIV have new hope of a longer life span thanks to the combination antiretroviral therapy. "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?"

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