HIV Life Expectancy on the Rise

By: Christopher Donaldson

Life expectancy for people living with HIV in the UK increased by 15 years over the last decade thanks to antiretroviral therapy, advanced biomedical research and increased awareness. Good news—in a world where more than 33 million people are infected with HIV—for patients who are fortunate enough to gain access to antiretroviral medication.

According to the Atlantic, “Researchers led by Margaret May of the University of Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine compared the average life expectancy of HIV-positive people who took part in the U.K. Collaborative HIV Cohort study to that of the general population of the U.K. More than 17,600 patients aged 20 years and over who started treatment with antiretroviral therapy between 1996 and 2008 were included in the analysis.”

If we take a closer look at the data, life expectancy for an average 20-year-old infected with HIV increased from 30 years to almost 46 years between the periods 1996 and 2008.

Life expectancy is calculated as the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. For example, a 20-year-old living with HIV in 1996 could expect to live 30 additional years (to the age of 50). A 20-year-old living with HIV in 2008 could expect to live 46 additional years (to the age of 66).

“The researchers expect that, after HIV diagnosis, male patients will survive for 40 years on average but will be outlived by their female counterparts by about 10 years,” the Atlantic reports. “Similarly aged men and women in the U.K.'s general population had life expectancies of 58 and 62 years, respectively. They also observed that starting antiretroviral treatment later than guidelines recommend resulted in up to 15 years loss of life.”

Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust (the HIV and sexual health charity), said the study showed the need for early testing and diagnosis.

“This is very good news for people with HIV, their families and friends. It also demonstrates why it’s so much better to know if you have HIV. Late diagnosis and late treatment mean an earlier grave, so if you’ve been at risk for HIV, get tested now.

“Of course, it’s not just length of life that’s important, but quality of life too, and having HIV can still severely damage your life’s chances. While so much has changed 30 years on from the start of the epidemic, condoms continue to be the best way to protect yourself and your partner from HIV in the first place.”

Read the full article here.