News / Africa

Antiretrovirals Allow Near Normal Life Spans

In this photo taken Tuesday April 14, 2009 a pedestrian passes an AIDS education billboard in Johannesburg. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell-File)
In this photo taken Tuesday April 14, 2009 a pedestrian passes an AIDS education billboard in Johannesburg. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell-File)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Antiretroviral drugs have saved the lives of millions of people infected with the HIV, the AIDS virus. Now, new research shows HIV-infected people, who start treatment, can expect near normal life spans. The study was conducted in South Africa.


In 2011, South Africa had about 5.6 million people infected with HIV - more than any other country. That same year, over 270,000 people in South Africa died from AIDS-related illnesses and complications. So the more information health officials can gather about the disease, the better they can project treatment plans and costs.

University of Cape Town’s Dr. Leigh Johnson collected data on treatment programs between 2001 and 2010.  The study did not start out to specifically look at longevity.

“I think partly it was concern about the life insurance policies that were being provided to people with HIV. And in many cases people with HIV were being charged very high premiums. And we were worried about whether or not these very high premiums were really justified by the mortality risk in patients once they were on treatment,” he said.

There was a second aspect to the study.

“It was also partly motivated by an attempt to understand the extent to which antiretroviral treatment is reducing overall levels of mortality in South Africa. So we are involved in producing demographic forecasts for South Africa; and in order to produce these democratic forecasts we need estimates of how long people are surviving on antiretroviral treatment,” said Johnson.

The overall findings show treatment can enable people to live a near normal life span. However, Johnson said that patients must meet a few conditions for that to happen. The first is the stage of disease at the time treatment begins. That’s measured by the number of CD4 immune cells that have survived the onslaught of HIV.

“Previously, the treatment guidelines in South Africa recommended that patients defer their initiation of therapy until their CD4 count had dropped below 200 cells per microliter. That’s quite an advanced stage of disease to be starting treatment. And what we showed was that patients who started treatment before reaching that threshold of 200 cells per microliter had much high life expectancies than those patients who only waited until their CD4 count was below the 200 threshold,” he said.

Basically, at the 200 level the immune system has collapsed and the patient is an easy target for opportunistic infections.

There are newer World Health Organization guidelines that South Africa currently follows. It now tries to begin treatment when the CD4 count is at 350, a marked difference in the health of the immune system. However, despite that, Johnson said many people are still waiting until advanced stages of disease before seeking treatment. It’s a problem many countries now face.

Another factor was age. A 20 year old patient would naturally have a longer life expectancy than a 60 year old. The findings showed the 20 year old would get an additional 27 years of life and the 60 year old an extra 10.

So, what does it all mean?

“From a demographic point of view it means that our projections of mortality are going to be much lower than what we were expecting previously. But it does also mean that we are expecting many more long term survivors on antiretroviral treatment in [the] future. So we’re going to have a much greater older age population than was previously anticipated. And I think it’s important from a kind of a fiscal point of view because we obviously need to budget for the long term provision of treatment for these patients,” he said.

South Africa funds about 80 percent of its national treatment program through its own resources. Johnson said that it’s difficult to determine whether it will be able to sustain that as the number of people on treatment grows. Another factor will be the cost of new generations of antiretroviral drugs that will be needed as HIV builds resistance to current drugs.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More