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HIV life expectancy on the rise

The life expectancy of people with HIV has increased by 15 years thanks to treatment improvements over the past decade, research shows.

Researchers led by Dr Margaret May of the University of Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine studied data on 17,661 patients with HIV, of whom 1,248 (7%) died between 1996 and 2008. 

Findings published in the British Medical Journal showed life expectancy for an average 20-year-old infected with HIV increased from 30 years to almost 46 years between 1996-1999 and 2006-2008.

The study also revealed life expectancy for women treated for HIV is ten years' higher than for men.

During 1996-2008, life expectancy was 40 years for male patients and 50 years for female patients.

This is compared with 58 years for men and nearly 62 years for women in the general UK population.

The point at which a person begins treatment has a "significant" impact on their life expectancy, researchers claim.

They argue that starting antiretroviral therapy later than guidelines suggest could result in a patient dying up to 15 years earlier than those with early diagnosis.

"These results are very reassuring news for current patients and will be used to counsel those recently found to be HIV-positive," said Dr Mark Gompels, lead clinician and co-author, North Bristol NHS Trust.

Researchers in Boston said the improvements are "encouraging" but note that "they have not been seen in everyone with HIV". 

However, they claim the research should "serve as an urgent call to increase awareness of the effectiveness of current HIV treatments in patients and providers."

British Medical Journal