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AIDS Complications Remain Leading Cause of Death for HIV+ in U.K.

A new study, published in The Lancet shows that people living with HIV in the United Kingdom have a 6-times higher risk of death than the general population, and are still dying of AIDS complications despite the nation’s free healthcare.

Researchers analyzed data from individuals older than 15 years of age who were diagnosed with HIV in between 1997 and 2012 (the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy, which has dramatically reduced AIDS-related deaths). During that period, 58 percent of deaths were attributable to AIDS-related illnesses.

In comparison — according to a previous study (also published in The Lancet) — in the U.S. the percentage of deaths attributed to AIDS-related illnesses fell from 34 percent in 1999-2000 to 22 percent in 2009-2011. Non-AIDS-related cancers have now surpassed AIDS complications as the leading cause of death for those with HIV in the U.S., increasing from accounting for 9 percent of the deaths in 1999-2000 to 23 percent in 2009–11.

The U.K. study also found that late diagnosis was a strong predictor of mortality and that individuals diagnosed more recently had a lower risk of death.

“These findings highlight the importance of prompt diagnosis and linkage to care as major public health interventions to reduce premature mortality,” the study authors wrote. “HIV testing should be further expanded outside traditional settings to reach vulnerable populations and patients supported across the HIV care pathway. As people live longer with HIV, prevention and optimal management of comorbidities might further reduce mortality.”

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