HIV Treatment: 2 Million Years of Life Saved in U.S.
March 1, 2005
Improved HIV care saved at least 2 million years of life in the United States between 1989 and 2003, according to research presented Friday at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston. The benefits of HIV treatment far exceed some commonly employed interventions used for chronic diseases, "including chemotherapy for breast cancer, bypass surgery for coronary artery disease, and marrow transplantation for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," said lead author Dr. Rochelle Walensky of Harvard Medical School.
"More than anything else, our results speak to the clinical and public health imperative to promote and finance routine, voluntary HIV screening for all adults in the United States," Walensky said. "There are 900,000 persons infected with HIV in this country; of these, as many as 280,000 don't know it," Walensky said. "These are the life years we have failed to save. Instead of 2 million years of life, we could have saved over 4 million years had we identified and linked these people to care."
Using published estimates of the number of adult AIDS patients receiving the recommended standard of care in the year of diagnosis, Walensky and colleagues estimated the cumulative survival benefits of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and opportunistic infection prophylaxis in the United States from 1989 to 2003.
"What we found is that 2 million years of life have been saved as a direct and attributable result of progress in HIV care," said Walensky. "Whenever possible, we sought to underestimate the effects of care. Thus we understated the number of eligible patients, we understated the efficacy of treatment, and we understated the rate of linkage to care. Still, we got 2 million."
The group attributed most of the progress to HAART, which "can lengthen the lifespan of persons with AIDS by nearly 15 years." Zidovudine treatment prevented some 2,860 new HIV infections in infants, saving another 186,790 years of life. Had all pregnant HIV-positive mothers received zidovudine, a total 277,150 years would have been gained.
02.28.05; Deborah Mitchell
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.