HIV :: Survival of People with HIV Improves in Recent Years

A study of nearly 4,000 HIV-infected people in Denmark, matched with about 380,000 people who were not infected, found that people diagnosed with HIV infection between 1995-2005 had a shorter life expectancy (20 years beyond age 25) than the general population (51 years beyond age 25).

However, the life expectancy of a 25-year-old person diagnosed with HIV infection has improved (33 years beyond age 25) for those diagnosed since 2000, when highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) became standard treatment. These findings show that HAART has transformed HIV infection into a chronic disease with a long, but not normal, lifespan.

HIV is a Retrovirus associated with AIDS. HIV attacks and gradually destroys the immune system, leaving the host unprotected against infection. It cannot be spread through casual contact but instead is contracted mainly through exposure to blood and blood products (e.g., by sharing hypodermic needles or by accidental needle sticks), semen and female genital secretions, or breast milk. A pregnant woman can pass the virus to her fetus across the placenta. The virus first multiplies in lymph nodes near the site of infection. Once it spreads through the body, usually about 10 years later, symptoms appear, marking the onset of AIDS.

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