Life Expectancy for North Americans With HIV Reaches Historic High

This article was reported by reported that a new study indicated that US HIV-infected gay men had a life expectancy of 77 years, the same lifespan given in 2009 to the average, uninfected American male. HIV-infected intravenous drug users and people of color lagged far behind, with life expectancies of 49 and 58, respectively. The overall life expectancy for HIV-infected North Americans was age 63. The study included the records of 23,000 US and Canadian HIV-infected patients with a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, collected from 2002 to 2007.

Kyle Murphy, assistant director of communications for the National Minority AIDS Council, noted that HIV-infected members of communities of color fared much worse than whites. Murphy attributed the disparity to late diagnosis and poor retention in care. Dr. Joel Gallant, chair of the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), agreed that race was not an independent factor in life expectancy for HIV-infected people. Instead, he cited "more infections from drug use and later presentation to care." Gallant stated that gay men tended to have regular HIV testing and to start antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately. He added that more Americans now received HIV diagnoses at an older age because they had HIV testing less frequently.

Dr. Mark Smith, president of California HealthCare Foundation, emphasized that effective ART prevented not only the opportunistic infections that once killed HIV-infected patients, but also prevented HIV transmission. In November, HIVMA recommended new HIV treatment guidelines that emphasized routine preventive care for older HIV-infected patients.

The full report, "Closing the Gap: Increases in Life Expectancy Among Treated HIV-Positive Individuals in the United States and Canada," was published online in the journal PLOS ONE (2013; doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0081355).