Cocktail of drugs extends life of HIV patients

According to Canadian researchers a cocktail which is a combination of HIV drugs can give AIDS patients an average of 13 years additional life.

The researchers from the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, say if they are lucky enough to get them, those who started taking the drugs at age 20 could, on average, expect to live for another 43 years.

The team led by Dr. Robert Hogg examined 14 different studies on 43,000 patients living in the United States, Canada and Europe, who received drug combinations known as highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART.

They say between 1996-99 and 2003-05, there was a gain in life expectancy for those at age 20 years of about 13 years and similar gains in life expectancy in those aged 35 years were also seen.

They say a person starting combination therapy can expect to live about 43 years at 20 years of age, about two-thirds as long as the general population in these countries - the average life expectancy for a 20-year-old without HIV in those countries would apparently be 80.

The researchers found that those treated later on in their infections and those infected by injected drug use did not live as long as those treated early.

Since the AIDS virus first appeared in the 1980s an estimated 33 million people globally have been infected and 25 million have died - there is no cure or vaccine which protects against it, but drugs can suppress the virus and allow patients to lead a near-normal life.

Left untreated the virus destroys the immune system and patients are left susceptible to infections and cancer.

There are now in excess of 20 drugs available which can be combined into cocktails to help control the virus.

As the virus usually mutates most patients have to change to different regimens to keep it at bay and under tight control, and the new drug combos make it easier to stay on therapy.

According to the United Nations as many as 3 million people in the developing world can now access HIV drugs, about 70 percent of those who need them.

The HIV virus is transmitted through sex, blood, injected drug use and from mother to child at birth or through breast milk.

The study is published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

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