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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid