Published: Fri, May 12, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

ART giving longer life to young HIV sufferers

ART giving longer life to young HIV sufferers

They found that while young people on antiretroviral drugs were expected to experience "near normal" life expectancy, this was not the case for HIV-positive people as a whole.

"Our research illustrates a success story of how improved HIV treatments coupled with screening, prevention and treatment of health problems associated with HIV infection can extend the lifespan of people diagnosed with HIV", explains lead author Adam Trickey in a statement.

Apparently, antiretroviral therapy was first used in the mid-1990s and involved combinations of three or more drugs that should block the HIV virus' replication.

Life expectancy for people with HIV is now almost normal if they take the latest medication, say scientists.

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This is particularly true in the developing world, where the majority of HIV deaths occur because access to drugs is limited. It also prevents onward spread of the disease. Furthermore, the researchers said that the findings should also encourage people with HIV to start treatment as soon as possible and to stick to it. Previous guidelines recommended treatment using thresholds based on a person's CD4 count - immune cells attacked by the virus - which became higher over time until current guidelines were set stating the need for immediate treatment.

Conducted in Europe and America, the study included data on more than 88,000 HIV patients.

Fewer people who started treatment between 2008-2010 died during their first three years of treatment than those who started treatment between 1996-2007. The same study also showed that, life expectancy for both male and female 20 years old have been increased by nine and ten years respectively since 2013. The average life expectancy in the USA is now 79 years on average, or just under 77 for men and just over 81 for women.

The increase in life expectancy was down to rapid improvements made in treatment, the study's authors said, commenting that HIV healthcare had "improved substantially in the past two decades".

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Trickey said this underlined the need for prevention and treatment efforts to be focused on high-risk groups.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of Global Positioning System, said: 'It's a tremendous medical achievement that an infection that once had such a bad prognosis is now so manageable'.

He added: "We must also continue to increase testing and diagnose people who are unaware they have the virus".

However the real challenge according to Jimmy WhitWorth, professor of global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is to spread and translate the success of this discovery to other parts of the world.

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World Health Organization estimates that 18.2 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy by mid-2016 and that 46 percent of individuals infected with the virus were receiving treatment in 2015. For many diagnosed all those years ago, it was a terrifying and isolating time in which you were handed a death sentence and somehow had to make sense of what time you had, often completely alone until you started the descent, on a ward often staffed by some of the most caring people in the NHS. "This was a very rigorous study, which reflects huge progress in diagnosis and management over the past 20 years". "I think the combination of all of those [factors] easily explains in a logical way the results of that study".

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