A new study reveals that treatment using a combination of new drugs is instrumental in improving the life expectancy of HIV-positive patients.
The research shared that the introduction of ART or antiretroviral therapy increased the life expectancy of HIV-positive people by a decade in both Europe and the United States.
The researchers asserted that healthcare for HIV-positive patients has shown a significant improvement.
What Is Antiretroviral Therapy?
Antiretroviral therapy is the use of a mixture of three or more drugs, which can block the replication of the HIV virus. This prevents and helps repair any damage the infection cause to the human body’s immune system. The method — which was first widely deployed in 1996 — also thwarts the progression of the ailment. The WHO recommends that the treatment be administered to all HIV-positive people as soon the disease is diagnosed.
How Was The Study Conducted?
For the purpose of the study, the scientists observed the alterations in the life expectancy and three-year survival of HIV-positive patients who underwent antiretroviral therapy.
The researchers examined the data of 88,504 HIV-positive individuals from 18 North American and European studies who underwent antiretroviral therapy from 1996 to 2010. To determine the life expectancy, the study monitored how many HIV-positive people died in the first three years of receiving treatment. It also tracked their CD4 cell count, HIV viral load, death cause, and if the individual became infected through the injection of a drug.
Antiretroviral Therapy Helps Improve Life Expectancy?
The researchers found that lesser number of HIV-positive individuals who underwent antiretroviral therapy died in the first three years of the treatment vis-à-vis those who commenced therapy earlier, from 1996 to 2007.
When the researchers particularly observed the number of deaths owing to AIDS, the deaths during the therapy decreased over time from 1996 to 2010. This decrease was possibly due to the higher effectiveness of newer drugs in restoring the patient’s immunity.
In this period, the average CD4 cells count also improved in those undergoing treatment for a year. It increased from 370 cells per microliter of blood to 430 cells per microliter of blood in 1996 to 1999 and 2008 to 2010, respectively. The percentage of people who had a low HIV viral load spiked from 71 percent to 93 percent.
Thanks to these enhancements from 1996 to 2013, the researchers shared that life expectancy of HIV-positive 20-year-olds who underwent treatment improved in both North America and EU by 9 years and 10 years for women and men, respectively.
However, the researchers did not find that the new drugs improved the life expectancy of all HIV-positive people. The survival rate of HIV-positive individuals who became infected via injection of drugs did not increase compared to other groups.
Importance Of The Findings
The study’s authors noted that the findings could aid in decreasing the stigma surrounding HIV-positive people, as well as help them get medical insurance and jobs. Those diagnosed with the disease would also be encouraged to begin treatment quickly and continue the same.
“Combination antiretroviral therapy has been used to treat HIV for 20 years, but newer drugs have fewer side effects, involve taking fewer pills, better prevent replication of the virus and are more difficult for the virus to become resistant to,” Adam Trickey, the study’s lead author, noted.
The study’s findings have been published in the journal The Lancelot HIV.