Therapy Prolonges HIV Patient Life Expectancy

Armen Hareyan's picture
AIDS Therapy and Drugs for All Nations

Antiretroviral therapy extends life expectancy of HIV and AIDS patients by 13 years and cuts death rates by 40% if patients start the treatment early.

A team of researchers from British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, Canada examined data from 14 studies involving 43,555 patients living in developed countries. Participants were divided into three groups: the first group (18,587 patients) started receiving treatment between 1996 and 1999, the second group (13914 patients) between 2000 and 2002, the third group (10584 patients) between 2003 and 2005.

While on the study, 2056 patients died, but mortality rates actually decline from 16.3 out of 1000 a year between 1996 and 1999 to 10 out of 1000 a year between 2003 and 2005. Life expectancy of the HIV patients was also improved for those who started early treatment from 56.1 years between 1996 and 1999 to 69.4 years between 2003 and 2005. Life expectancy was longer for women - 64.2 years, compared to 62.8 years in men. This is probably because of the fact that women start treatment earlier and are more attentive to personal health.


There are about 33 million people worldwide infected with AIDS virus. The virus has killed 25 million since 1980. The infection is being transmitted via sexual intercourse, injected drug use, blood, from mother to child at birth or while breastfeeding. The disease destroys immune system totally and makes the patient vulnerable to every single infection.

There is no cure or vaccine for the infection, but there are about 20 drugs that can suppress the virus and help a patient live a normal life. GlaxoSmithKline, Gilead Sciences, Roche, Pfizer, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Abbott Laboratories are the most known drug makers that provide with HIV drugs. Patients are being prescribed a combination of drug individually, but since the virus mutates, the combination need to be changed periodically to make sure it's effective. Treatment of HIV / AIDS is more effective when it starts early after infection is detected. Also it is not that effective for injection drug users.

Drug combination for HIV / AIDS treatment is called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and is very expensive. Currently, there are about 3 million people receiving the necessary therapy, and these people are from developed countries. Those in other countries are mostly left behind HIV treatment.

This research shows that antiretroviral therapy has changed the face of HIV/AIDS. The disease was considered as 'early death sentence', but now it can be a chronic illness that can be managed. Of course, antiretroviral therapy has adverse side effects and it can be difficult to receive during a long period of time, but its positive effects overweight the risks and it help people live longer.