(RxWiki News) Advances in drug therapy for HIV are allowing HIV patients to live fuller and longer lives. It's possible that the average life expectancy of an HIV-positive person with treatment is approaching the life expectancy of uninfected people.
A recent study found that HIV-positive adults using antiretroviral therapy in the United States and Canada are expected to live into their early 70s.
The researchers concluded that antiretroviral therapy is helping the average life expectancy of HIV-positive people approach that of the general population.
"Discuss the benefits of antiretroviral therapy with your doctor."
The lead author of this study was Robert S. Hogg from the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, and Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
The study used participant data on HIV-positive people from a previous study called the North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design (NA-ACCORD).
The current study only included 22,937 people who were 20 years old or older, and had started using antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs either before or during the study period. The study period was from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2007.
The researchers collected data on demographics (age, race, sex, etc.), the way the participant got HIV and each participant's CD4 cell count (type of white blood cell that the virus attaches to).
The participants contributed a total of 82,022 person-years (number of people times number of years in treatment), and there were 1,622 deaths.
This meant that the average mortality rate for the whole study period was 19.8 deaths per 1,000 person-years.
The researchers found that mortality rate differed by sex, the way the participant got HIV, race and CD4 cell count.
The average mortality rate for the women was 19.1 deaths per 1,000 person-years versus 20 deaths per 1,000 person-years for the men.
Participants who got HIV from injection drug use had an average mortality rate of 34.5 deaths per 1,000 person-years, compared to 12.5 deaths per 1,000 person-years for the men who got HIV by having sex with other men and 19.1 deaths per 1,000 person-years for participants who got HIV any other way.
White participants were found to have an average mortality rate of 16.0 deaths per 1,000 person-years compared to 22.4 deaths per 1,000 person-years for non-white participants.
The findings revealed that life expectancy significantly increased from 2000 to 2007.
The overall average life expectancy from 2000 to 2002 was found to be 36 years old, and rose to 45 years old from 2003 to 2005 and to 51 years old from 2006 to 2007.
The average life expectancy for women was 44 years old, and 42 years old for men.
Participants who got HIV from injecting drugs had an average life expectancy of 29 years old, whereas men who had sex with men were expected to live to 57 years old. Participants who got HIV any other way were expected to live to 50 years old.
The researchers determined that the average life expectancy for white participants was 52 years old, while the life expectancy for non-white participants was 38 years old.
Based on the increases from 2000 to 2007, the researchers believe that the current life expectancy of HIV-positive people on ART in Canada and the United States will be approximately 70 years old.
The authors noted a few limitations.
First, these findings did not account for, and may have underestimated, some of the more recent improvements in HIV treatment and care. Second, the findings are only applicable to people who are beginning ART and not those who have already been on it.
Third, the study population may not be accurately representative of the virus impact in each of the geological regions. Fourth, the study population may be under representative of patients who are at high risk of death.
This study was published on December 18 in Plos ONE.
The National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Center for Disease Control, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian HIV Trials Network, project 24 and the government of British Columbia provided funding.