The decision to start treatment is different for every person with HIV and is a conversation best had with one's doctor. But research consistently finds that one of the benefits of starting HIV treatment as early as possible may be a longer life. In fact, a new study from the U.S. shows that, for people who start treatment before their CD4+ count falls below 350, their average life expectancy can be equal to -- or, in some cases, even higher than -- that of the general population.
For a disease that was once considered a death sentence, this is huge news, especially because life expectancy and mortality are often on the mind of people newly diagnosed with HIV and those considering starting treatment.
Meanwhile, a second recent study looked at death rates for non-AIDS-defining illnesses among people who started HIV treatment when they had a CD4+ count above 350. It found that the non-AIDS death rate was not, and had never been, any higher than among a comparable group of HIV-negative people.
There are a lot of other factors that go into mortality rates, including illicit drug use (which has been shown to seriously cut into the average lifespan) and history of other illnesses. While these studies definitely show some good news regarding starting HIV meds early, many factors should go into the decision to start treatment, so please consult with your HIV care provider.
For a more in-depth look at these studies and the numbers, Aidsmap has a full report.
Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.