Higher expected life expectancy confirms the importance of HIV/AIDS treatment

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Since the introduction of the first antiretroviral drug (ART) for the treatment of HIV/AIDS 35 years ago, life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa has steadily increased. Antiretroviral drugs are specifically designed to help an individual’s immune system fight off HIV and, in turn, suppress HIV replication. However, there is limited understanding of the combined effects of HIV and ART on disability and healthy longevity in people with the disease. Brigham investigators worked with international partners in South Africa to compare people with both virally suppressed and unsuppressed virus, with people who were not infected with HIV. The team used the data they collected in an observational, longitudinal, population-based cohort study that included baseline interviews and blood collection, as well as follow-up interviews and blood collection approximately four years later. Their modeling analysis found that people receiving antiretroviral drugs would live significantly longer and with less disability than those whose HIV was uncontrolled. This research illustrates the role of ART in healthy aging, as well as the continued importance for international global health organizations to provide HIV treatment to those around the world, including in Africa.

“It was exciting for us to discover that ― at the population level ― achieving high rates of viral suppression in people living with HIV will lead not only to increased life expectancy, but also to healthier aging. “said lead author Jennifer Manne-Goehler, MD. of the Division of Infectious Diseases. “This confirms the critical importance of maintaining support for antiretroviral programs as a means of ensuring the best long-term health outcomes for people aging with HIV.”

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