HIV patients live 13 years longer

Life expectancy for HIV patients is now 13 years longer than in the 1990s, say UK researchers.

Looking at studies from Europe and the US, the researchers found that life expectancy went from an average of 56.1 years in 1996-99, to 69.4 years in 2003-05.

Mortality rates for people on combination antiretroviral therapy also fell by 40 per cent over this period, according to the research published in The Lancet.

Improvements in long-term combination antiretroviral therapy are believed to be the main factor in this.

But despite the improvements, a HIV-negative person is likely to outlive one with HIV by 20 years.

In a second article in the journal, an Australian team criticises a statement made by the Swiss Federal Commission for HIV/AIDS earlier this year that HIV-positive patients on effective antiretroviral treatment cannot transmit HIV through sexual contact.

While the risk may be low, if people follow this advice and do not use condoms, the number of HIV infections could quadruple within 10 years, says the team led by Dr David Wilson from the University of New South Wales.

‘As a population strategy, treatment as prevention has the potential to reduce HIV epidemics only if consistent condom use is maintained,’ wrote the researchers.

rachel.liddle@haymarket.com

Lancet 2008; 372: 293-313

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