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Following thorough examination of participants from the North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design, researchers have determined that HIV-positive patients treated with antiretroviral therapy have a higher life expectancy than ever before. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, their results estimated that a 20-year-old adult living with HIV may live into their early 70's, an age similar to that of the general population.
Led by Hasina Samji, a doctoral student at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the team from the Canadian university worked with the NA-ACCORD to determine the efficacy of ART on life expectancy for HIV-positive individuals. More than 23,000 patients, aged 20 or older, were examined based on mortality rates from the early 2000's. The scientists discovered that between 2000 and 2007, the average lifespan of an HIV-positive individual on ART jumped from 36.1 to 51.4 years. There was no gender bias, as both men and women had comparable expectancies throughout the study.
However, expectancy was considerably lower for individuals that began ART with low CD4 count, which are cells that accumulate to kick start the immune response to HIV, than those with a higher count. Additionally, a history of drug use via injections decreased life expectancy as well.
Using ART for HIV
Since there is currently no cure for HIV, antiretroviral therapy is essential in preventing the virus from spreading and destroying the immune system. ART also works to prevent the development of AIDS as a result of depleted levels of CD4. Without treatment with ART, individuals who progress to AIDS typically only survive another three years. However once a patient contracts, such as a cancer related to infections, his or her life expectancy drops to almost one year or less.
The progression of HIV is different for every person, but there are certain factors that may affect the stages of the infection at different rates. Some circumstances that may influence the time between HIV and AIDS are poor nutrition, severe stress and older age. Health care providers work closely with their patients to improve the quality of care and life.
The findings from Samji's study show an improvement in the longevity of life and give hope to HIV-positive individuals on ART. While more lab tests and studies are needed for specificity, approaching the life expectancy of the general population is a huge step forward in HIV testing and treatment.
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