Commentary & Opinion
3 Million Years of Life Saved in U.S. by Antiretrovirals, Study Says
June 5, 2006
"The Survival Benefits of AIDS Treatment in the United States," Journal of Infectious Diseases: Rochelle Walensky of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues examined national surveillance data from 1989 to 2003 for adults newly diagnosed with and receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS. The researchers divided the years into "eras" and used a computer simulation model to determine the average "per-person" survival period for each era and compared it with the average survival period in that era in the absence of treatment. The study finds that the average survival period for patients receiving antiretroviral drugs was three months longer than for those not receiving antiretroviral drugs in the first era (1989-1992), two years longer in the second era (1993-1995), and eight, 11, 12, and 13 years longer, respectively, in the four eras from 1996 to 2003. The researchers concluded that more than three million years of life have been saved in the U.S. since 1989 because of the "widespread adoption" of antiretroviral drug treatment and prophylaxis. In addition, the study finds that an additional 740,000 years of life could have been saved if all people in the U.S. with AIDS upon diagnosis had received proper treatment (Walensky et al., JID, 6/1). In an editorial accompanying the study, Sten Vermund of Vanderbilt University writes that the "millions of life years saved in the [U.S.] should reinvigorate policy debates as to how best to identify HIV-infected persons in our country by offering and encouraging testing as a routine part of medical screening." He adds that the U.S. must reduce barriers to testing, such as eliminating the pretest counseling requirement, in an effort to help more people know their HIV status and receive treatment. Vermund concludes, "If we address systematically the barriers to testing, care and prevention, then future modelers will describe the next 15 year period as having saved hundreds of millions of life-years, not just in North America but around the globe" (Vermund, JID, 6/1).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.