Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Good news on the AIDS front...

Mortality rates and person-years of life lost declined substantially between 1996-1999 and 2003-2005. In the latter period, a 20-year-old starting ART could expect to live an additional 43 years; a 35-year-old, 32 more years.While HIV/AIDS is still, at present, incurable, clinicians and researchers have done much to improve the prognosis of this feared disease. Initially, the average time from diagnosis to death was about 10 years, and those years were often filled suffering from a whole host of opportunistic infections doctors didn't know much about.

In terms of curing or alleviating the burdern of opportunistic infections, we have come a long way. However, it is still hard to offer a prognosis in terms of time. CD4 counts and viral loads offer a clue, but these simply aren't reliable enough to provide a life expectancy to even within a decade.

A recent cohort study aims to rectify that. 14 cohorts from the U.S.A., Canada and Europe were followed up, and the results were surprisingly good:

Mortality rates and person-years of life lost declined substantially between 1996-1999 and 2003-2005. In the latter period, a 20-year-old starting ART could expect to live an additional 43 years; a 35-year-old, 32 more years.

Now, while by no means great (survival is still only about two thirds as good as for the general population), this is a vast improvement. I'm sure that most doctors, let alone most of the public, wouldn't have guessed that someone in their twenties who contracted HIV would, on average, live to their mid sixties.

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