A new study shows that young adults with HIV are living longer lives in North America and Europe. The study also showed that people who started antiretroviral treatment in 2008 or later had a near to normal life expectancy. Researchers from the University of Bristol in England hope to reduce HIV stigmatization and to help those newly diagnosed with the disease to begin treatment as soon as the person is diagnosed. Since the start of the HIV epidemic in the 80’s, the life expectancy of those with HIV was very low. Modern medicine is making it possible to live longer lives, even if the life expectancy is slightly lower than the population without HIV. The study was published in The Lancet HIV.
HIV or the human immunodeficiency virus that is a type of retrovirus that causes HIV and can developing into AIDS or the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Without treatment, the average survival time of a person with HIV can vary between nine to eleven years. Infection can occur after the transfer of sexual fluids (including semen, pre-ejaculate, and vaginal fluid), blood, or breast milk. AIDS was first observed in 1981 with the initial cases being injection drug users and gay men. This stigmatized HIV/AIDS and many people died because of misinformation or fear. Today, we the proper treatment those with HIV can live close to healthy lives. Antiretroviral therapy has three or more drugs to prevent HIV from reproducing in a person’s body. The treatment prevents damage to the individual’s immune system and from spreading it to other’s.
Speaking to the Montana Standard, lead study author Adam Trickey stated that their research highlighted the improvements in HIV treatment, screening, and prevention. He went on to say that additional efforts are necessary if life expectancy for someone with HIV is to match that of the general population. The drugs of today’s modern medicine have fewer side effects and allow patient to take “fewer pills.” Patients with HIV need to take their medication “consistently,” and hope that the diagnosis can be made earlier to prevent co-occurring diseases such as hepatitis C.
The study examined patients between 1996 and 2013 who were taking antiretroviral therapy. Participants in the study were 16 years or older. According to The Lancet HIV, groups from Europe and North America were interviewed including those in France, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, Canada, Denmark, the US, Austria, Spain, and Germany. Nearly 90,000 people were interviewed for the study. They were followed up three years after the initial visit and examined.
The BBC reported that early treatment was “crucial” to living longer, healthier lives. However, many healthcare organizations believe that there are those who are unaware of their HIV status.
By Cheryl Werber