Health and Wellness

People living with HIV have about the same early death rate as everyone else, study finds

A doctor drawing blood from a patient who spent hours doing his hair just to go to the doctor, apparently
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A new study found that early death rates for Americans living with HIV are no longer that different from people who are HIV-negative.

Originally published in Annals of Internal Medicine on July 6, the study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed death rates of approximately 83,000 adults being treated for HIV between 1999 and 2017 and compared them to a demographically similar group of people without HIV.

Related: President Biden honors “all those we have lost” in 40 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic

Specifically, the researchers were looking at whether death rates varied in the two groups in the first few years after those with HIV began treatment.

“This is a time and point that’s really important for intervention for people living with HIV,” said Jessie Edwards, a research assistant professor and the study’s lead author. “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.”

For those who began treatment from 1999 to 2004, there was an 11% difference in early death rates for those with HIV and those without. For those who started treatment from 2011 to 2017, that number dropped dramatically, to only 2.7%. For people between 18 and 34 years old, those with HIV were only 1% more likely to die within five years of starting treatment than those their age without HIV.

“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,” Edwards said. “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.”

Dr. Marshall Glesby, associate chief of infectious diseases at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medical College, told U.S. News and World Report that despite the advances in medicine that has spurred this progress, the work is far from over. Fifty percent of Americans with HIV are over the age of fifty, he said, and there remain challenges associated with HIV and aging.

Glesby added that many people may also not have access to lifesaving treatment.

“There’s still this gap that remains even with the new guidelines,” Edwards said, “and even with these highly effective drugs.”

Fortunately, the Biden Administration wants to help.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden requested Congress spend an additional $670 million on measures to fight HIV in the U.S., including access to PrEP and treatment.

The $670 million for fighting HIV in the budget increase funding for several programs, including an additional $100 million for the CDC’s efforts to fight HIV and a $85 million increase for the Ryan White CARE Act, which helps low-income and uninsured people access HIV medications. The Biden administration is also requesting $22 million more for Indian Health Services at the Department of Health and Human Services to help provide resources for members of Native American tribes.

The budget also asks for $50 million in additional funding for community health centers to provide access to PrEP and more funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program.

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