ARVs Give Near-normal Lifespan

ARVs in Uganda

Patients taking HIV/Aids drugs in Uganda can expect to have a near-normal lifespan, says a new report by researchers from the University of British Colombia and BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/Aids in Canada.

According to published findings at the world conference on Aids in Rome, researchers trawled through data for 22,315 people in Uganda aged at least 14 who had initiated anti-retroviral therapy between 2000 and 2009.

They were measured against life expectancy, which is around 55 years, a figure that increases with age after the individual has cleared key milestones such as death in infancy or risk behaviour in adolescence. “We found that anti-retroviral therapy in Uganda offers favourable life expectancy compared with the national average.

We found that life expectancy varied considerably according to sex, with women having a greater life expectancy than men,” the researchers noted in their report published in Annals of Internal Medicine, a US journal.

The report says adolescents (14 to 19 years) had worse life expectancy than older patients (20 to 49 years) because “mortality among adolescents is higher than in older age groups”. Individuals in the study who were at the age of 20 when they began therapy were statistically likely to live an additional 26.7 years, and at the age of 35 another 27.9 years. But this was the overall figure, and there were big differences between the sexes. Twenty-year-old males on HIV drugs could look to an additional 19.1 years of life, but female 30.6 years.

The gap was maintained at the age of 35, when an infected male under treatment could live another 22 years but a woman could live 32.5 years more. The suspected reason for this is that men tend to access care at a later stage of disease than women, when they are already badly infected by the human immunodeficiency virus.

Previous research has already established that earlier treatment leads to stronger health as the immune system, compromised by the Aids pathogen, recovers. “The substantial life expectancy afforded by access to anti-retroviral drugs underscores the fact that HIV diagnosis and treatment in resource-limited setting should no longer be considered a death sentence,” said lead researcher Edward Mills.

Georgetown University researcher Mark Dybul, who led the implementation of former US president George W. Bush’s massive plan for Aids help in the last decade, said the findings were “further evidence that the global investment in HIV and Aids programming is clearly working.”

The study is the latest in a series of research into wider use of the drug “cocktail” that first emerged in 1996 and has become one of the greatest successes in the history of medicine. AIDS has killed an estimated 30 million people worldwide since it was recorded as a novel disease in 1981.


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