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Thursday, 11 May 2017

'Near-normal' life expectancy for young HIV patients thanks to new treatments

Written by Jane Kirby

Doctors have praised the "tremendous medical achievement" which means young people with HIV can now expect a near-normal life expectancy.

A study in The Lancet HIV medical journal found that advances in antiretroviral drugs now give young people with the disease a chance to live well into old age.

Those aged 20 who started antiretroviral therapy in 2010 are projected to live 10 years longer than those first using it in 1996, it found.

However, when all age groups are considered, life expectancy for people with HIV is still lower than the general population.

HIV, which can lead to Aids if left untreated, was once considered a certain death sentence.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It's a tremendous medical achievement that an infection that once had such a terrible prognosis is now so manageable, and that patients with HIV are living significantly longer.

"We hope the results of this study go a long way to finally removing any remaining stigma associated with HIV, and ensuring that patients with HIV can live long and healthy lives without experiencing difficulties in gaining employment and - in countries where it is necessary - obtaining medical insurance."

Dr Michael Brady, medical director at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Today's report reminds us just how far we've come since the start of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s.

"Medical advances now mean that people with HIV live long and healthy lives."

However, he said that people aged over 50 now represent one in three of all those living with HIV.

"As it stands, the healthcare, social care and welfare systems simply aren't ready to support the increasing numbers of people growing older with HIV," he said.

"We need a new model of care to better integrate primary care with HIV specialist services, and we need a major shift in awareness and training around HIV and ageing, so that we're ready to help older people live well in later life."

The new study used data for 88,504 people with HIV who started antiretroviral treatment between 1996 and 2010 from 18 European and North American studies.

Lead author Adam Trickey, from the University of Bristol, said: "Our research illustrates a success story of how improved HIV treatments coupled with screening, prevention and treatment of health problems associated with HIV infection can extend the lifespan of people diagnosed with HIV.

"However, further efforts are needed if life expectancy is to match that of the general population.

"Combination antiretroviral therapy has been used to treat HIV for 20 years, but newer drugs have fewer side effects, involve taking fewer pills, better prevent replication of the virus and are more difficult for the virus to become resistant to."

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