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Life Expectancy for People Living With HIV Increases by 15 Years

July 29, 2013

Life expectancy estimates broken down by groups. Adapted from R.S. Hogg et al. IAS 2013; abstract TUPE260.

Life expectancy estimates broken down by groups. Adapted from R.S. Hogg et al. IAS 2013; abstract TUPE260.

A person living with HIV who is on treatment in the U.S. or Canada can expect to live almost a normal life span, according to a study presented at IAS 2013. The study, conducted by the NA-ACCORD (North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design), estimated the average life span to be 71.4 years in 2006-2007, an increase of 15 years from 56.1 in 2000-2002.

The researchers followed 22,937 people from the U.S. and Canada; 77% were male and 62% were white. About 39% were men who have sex with men. All participants were at least 20 years old and treatment-naive before starting meds.

The estimates were given in terms of life expectancy at age 20, defined as the average number of additional years a person at age 20 could expect to live (assuming the current age-specific mortality rates remained constant).

Overall, average life expectancy at age 20 jumped from 36.1 in 2000-2002 to 45.2 in 2003-2005, and then to 51.4 in 2006-2007. Depending on demographics and clinical characteristics, these estimates varied.

For men, life expectancy at age 20 increased from 35.9 in 2000-2002 to 44.4 in 2003-2005 and 53.4 in 2006-2007. For women, there was actually a slight decrease in the most recent time period studied, from 48.4 in 2003-2005 to 47.3 in 2006-2007.

For men who have sex with men, the estimate increased from 57.4 in 2003-2005 to 69.3 in 2006-2007 (the highest estimate for any group). By contrast, another high-risk transmission group, injection drug users, saw a virtually unchanged life expectancy change over the course of the study, from 29.5 in 2000-2002 to 31.0 in 2003-2005 and 28.8 in 2006-2007.

The CD4+ cell count at the time of starting treatment also made a big difference. For those with a CD4+ cell count greater than 350, life expectancy at 20 jumped from 48.8 in 2000-2002 to 58.4 in 2003-2005 and 68.6 in 2006-2007. Meanwhile, for those with a CD4+ cell count below 350, the estimate went up from 31.4 in 2000-2002 to 40.8 in 2003-2005 and 46.9 in 2006-2007.

Race was also a significant factor, as whites had a life expectancy at age 20 of 56.9 in 2006-2007, compared to 48.4 for non-whites.

Nonetheless, despite disparities based on sex, race, mode of transmission and CD4+ cell count, the general trend was an increase in life expectancy for anyone on treatment. Given that the most recent data available in this study were from 2007, it can be hoped that in the years since we have come even closer to matching the life expectancy of the general population. Other recent research suggests this may indeed be the case.

Warren Tong is the research editor for and

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.

Copyright © 2013 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

This article was provided by TheBodyPRO. It is a part of the publication The 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Bobbie (Seattle, WA) Sun., Dec. 8, 2013 at 8:03 pm UTC
I am suffering a dip in my health, decline in T Cells and have had to return to disability. I make just too much money now for any ADAP assistance, it has been a great 58 years (pos since 1986)but I don't know what to do next. Got to admit to being scared, to feeling old to start over again and sad that I moved away from old friends and the great services in the CA. Bay Area. As I watch my T Cells drop I don't know what to do. Trying to be cool about this, live honestly and with love but this is a scary scary time.
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Comment by: Gina (San Francisco) Wed., Nov. 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm UTC
What is the relationship on life expectancy, if any, for someone who has religious taken meds and adhered to healthy life style changes but still drinks alcohol and has a CD4 count under 300?
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Comment by: DAVE S (MYRTLE POINT OR.) Mon., Sep. 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm UTC
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Comment by: philip (nairobi) Wed., Aug. 28, 2013 at 11:10 am UTC
can you please educate me on this issue of discordant couples am an hiv activist n am always asked why this occur in relationships and yet this couples havent used condoms in their realationship i find it hard to convey a substantial answer am based in the slums of nairobi where most positive people who are discordant are dissuaded to leave medication please give me a good reason to give back to this slum dwellers for most are illetrate and to understand them without a good reason is my main headache
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Comment by: Dr Simeon. O Ukagba (London UK) Tue., Aug. 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm UTC
That is for advance clime as was stated above. But I must tell you that average life expectancy for people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is decreasing.
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Comment by: Culo (Addis Ababa) Thu., Nov. 21, 2013 at 8:05 am UTC
Any study to prove that please? Difficult to believe an emotional London based African origin Dr.
Comment by: Okoyo (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) Thu., Nov. 21, 2013 at 8:49 am UTC
Just read the last paragraph. "Nonetheless, despite disparities based on sex, race, mode of transmission and CD4+ cell count, the general trend was an increase in life expectancy for anyone on treatment......."

Comment by: JIM (Roanoke, VA) Sat., Aug. 10, 2013 at 9:27 am UTC
Your survey tells of treatment beginning at age 20, the HIV infected ages are now increasing due to good medications, what about life expectancy for us who are in our 60s and have been in treatment for over 10 years? What can we expect???
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Comment by: Ron (Kansas City) Thu., Aug. 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm UTC
Where exactly does it say that you can live until 71? It says that in the first paragraph but when you read more, it says that life expectancy is 51. So which is it???
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Comment by: Warren ( Fri., Aug. 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm UTC
Hi Ron. The 51 number is given as "life expectancy at age 20," meaning overall living until age 71.

the researchers used "life expectancy at age 20" as their standard measure, but i decided giving the overall total age in the first paragraph would be easier.
Comment by: Brandon Mon., Aug. 12, 2013 at 10:49 am UTC
This is life expectancy after age 20 (additional life years gained). So 20 + 51.4 = 71.4 mentioned at the start of the article.

Comment by: Scott (Seattle) Thu., Aug. 8, 2013 at 12:18 am UTC
As usual this is all theoretical.
What about quality of life?
I don't want to live with my current side effects just for the sake of doctors claiming people with HIV live a normal life expectancy.
20yrs on HIV meds is easily $720,000-who pays?
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Jay (Philadelphia) Mon., Aug. 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm UTC
So well put Scott!
Comment by: Bobbie (Seattle WA) Sun., Dec. 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm UTC
I agree with you Scott. Been poz since 86 and much of that time was NOT NORMAL and I am back on disability and can't afford the medications anymore, I make too much for ADAP but not enough to cover the Medicare doughnut hole and ongoing costs. My T cells are dropping and one hospitalization will bankrupt me and put me on the streets. "Living for what?" is the question I ask myself.

Comment by: Jack (Las Vegas, NV) Tue., Aug. 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm UTC
I have to ask about those how have been HIV positive for 20 plus years and now are in their 40's and 50's. I have been gone thru many combinations of medications. I have a very bad resistance profile to medications. I now do a 4 drug medicaiton combination. Which really is like 8 medications. Where do people like myself fall in this study. I do not see my group show up.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Mike (Washington, DC) Wed., Aug. 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm UTC
I don't think, this study applies to you or to me. Yes, being in my 50s, I'm alive and so are you! Could I do without the loss of fat in my legs, my arms, my face? SURE! Could I do with my hair returning back to what it was, instead thinning, like I'm in my 80s? Sure! HIV advances aging and in my family the men don't get thin hair until we are in our 80s, if we make it. Could I do with the numbness, I've had and have to deal with? SURE! Don't get it twisted, they know about us. But, these 20 somethings, need assurance too.

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