Healthcare for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) patients has improved by leaps and bounds since its discovery in the early 1980s. As medication and treatments continue to improve, the life expectancy of HIV-positive patients have been projected to increase accordingly.

Recently, a study carried out by the University of Bristol provided evidence of the rapid progress made over the past two decades in improving the quality of life for HIV-positive patients.

HIV: The public health dilemma


First discovered in 1983, the HIV is a retrovirus that infects the human immune system. Given enough time without treatment, HIV infection will eventually progress to the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), where there is a complete shutdown of the host immune system.

Spreading primarily via the transfer of blood and bodily fluids, HIV infections have become a global pandemic, with 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV.

Treatment for HIV infections largely consists of anti-retroviral therapy which has seen significant improvements. These improvements include a reduction in cost and reduced side effects. Both go a long way in improving accessibility of treatment in lower-income nations and increasing adherence towards the treatment regime in existing patients.

Today, the World Health Organisation estimates that 18.2 million people worldwide are receiving anti-retroviral treatment. While the treatment and prevention of HIV infections have improved, the main issues surrounding this are the lack of a definitive cure and social stigma.

Near-normal life expectancy for HIV patients


First published on 10 May 2017, a team at the University of Bristol published findings on prospected life expectancy for HIV-positive patients who started anti-retroviral therapy between 1996 and 2013. By analysing the three-year survival rate and life expectancy of 88,504 patients, the team was able to accurately estimate the life expectancy for these patients in the coming future.

Present statistical analysis showed that patients who started treatment between 2008 and 2010 had lower mortality rates compared to those who begun treatment between 1996 and 2007. As such, 20-year-old patients who began anti-retroviral treatment after 2008 are now expected to live until the age of 78, which is similar to the general population.

Accounting for this success story, the team attributed these accomplishments to improved medication, patient-drug adherence, preventative measures and management of HIV complications. All of these factors added up to provide an improved quality of life for HIV-positive patients.

Future efforts


While this medical achievement is a breakthrough in healthcare, anti-retroviral treatment is still absolutely necessary in managing HIV infection. It still needs to become more cost effective in order to be more easily accessible for both lower-income nations and underprivileged individuals.

It is with hope that these findings do not only improve the outlook of people living with HIV but also help to abolish the social stigma towards this condition. This will help HIV patients to obtain better employment opportunities, health insurance coverage and, most importantly, social acceptance.

Even with these findings, there is still much work to be done as there are still many with HIV that remain undiagnosed or untreated. Screening and education are also absolutely pivotal in identifying these individuals while spurring for early detection and prevention. MIMS

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Sources:
http://us.bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/monograph/1073.html
http://www.who.int/hiv/en/
http://www.bbc.com/news/health-39872530
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanhiv/article/PIIS2352-3018(17)30066-8/fulltext?elsca1=tlpr