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Similar Rates of Dying for HIV-Positive and HIV-Negative People

death rates
Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

The death rate difference between those living with HIV and those not living with the disease dropped precipitously in recent years.

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found Americans who live with HIV have similar life spans to those living without the virus.

"In the early days of the AIDS pandemic, getting a diagnosis with AIDS was incredibly bad news and the prognosis for survival was really poor, and that's not true today," Jessie Edwards, lead author of the study and a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told HealthDay News.

"Someone diagnosed with HIV in this day and age can be linked to care and receive highly effective treatment and feel confident that their survival outlook is actually very good," Edwards said.

The team of researchers examined the death rates of almost 83,000 adults living with HIV between 1999-2017. The gap in death rates began closing after 2011.

HealthDay News reported that the researchers were specifically interested in understanding whether people with HIV had higher death rates than the general population following treatment.

"This is a time and point that's really important for intervention for people living with HIV," Edwards said. "This is a time when clinicians could make treatment decisions about what treatments they will prescribe, as well as how they will treat any other … conditions that those patients have."

Between 1999-2004, the difference in death rate between someone with HIV and someone without HIV was 11 percent. However, between 2011-2017 that number fell to 2.7 percent.

The study found that young adults with HIV care between 18 and 34 were only 1 percent more likely to die over the next five years than those living without HIV.

Edwards cautioned that a gap still remains and that the study only examined cases in the U.S.

Dr. Marshall Glesby, associate chief of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and a study author, said it was important for people to understand that the numbers pertained to people in treatment.

"That's important both from the perspective of the health of those individuals and also for the public health perspective, in terms of preventing transmission," he said, according to HealthDay News.

"There's a lot of effort being put into addressing concerns about adherence to antiretroviral therapy, which despite the simplification of regimens can still be a challenge for some people," Glesby said. "I think that's another major focus of research is really trying to make it even simpler for people to be dosed with antiretrovirals."

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