In the three decades since the HIV/AIDS crisis first struck the United States, incredible strides have been made in understanding and treating this disease.
A new study from the Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration (ART-CC) found that HIV patients in Europe and North America treated with a combination of three or more antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines can achieve the same life expectancy of people without HIV. ART-CC estimates that a 20-year-old patient who began treatment with ART between 2008 and 2010 could now live to age 78 – the same life expectancy for the general U.S. population.
In a recent article in STAT, reflecting on the new research, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, commented on the study: “We’re just getting better at what we do….We have better drugs… People are adhering better because they know these drugs really work.”
The biopharmaceutical industry has worked rigorously to improve medicines for treating HIV/AIDS by developing ART treatments with fewer side effects, combinations that improve compliance as well as pre-exposure prophylaxis medicines (PrEP) to help prevent transmission of HIV.
Following the introduction of ART treatment in the mid-1990s, death rates as a result of the disease have declined by more than 87 percent. Today, safe and effective ART medicines suppress the virus and prolong the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS, turning what was once a death sentence into a manageable chronic disease for many. In fact, research estimates that, as a result of ART treatment, more than 862,000 premature deaths have been averted. Just in the last 10 years, 15 new medicines for HIV/AIDS were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.