Swiss researchers say HIV/AIDS patients in stable relationships are generally healthier and have a better chance of living longer. They base their findings a study of more than 37-hundred patients in Switzerland who receive anti-retroviral drug therapy.
Researchers admit they can only speculate as to why patients in stable relationships fared so much better. But Dr. Heiner Bucher of the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, says the results are clear.
"In terms of outcome, those in stable partnerships were twenty percent less likely to progress to AIDS or death - and forty percent less likely to die from any cause. So I think these are quite impressive figures."
He says patients with HIV who are in stable relationships often have stronger immune systems and lower levels of the AIDS virus in their bodies. Professor Bucher says these patients may be less likely to suffer from depression.
"It’s known from other conditions like coronary heart disease that those with depression have a poorer prognosis. So that’s one possible reason. The other reason I think which is important – where we have indirect evidence – is that I think that patients with stable partners do somewhat better in taking the drugs. There are very complicated drug regimens still today, even though they are becoming better and easier to take."
Because of the study, researchers plan to look into whether other relationships can produce similar results. Such as those with family members or even health care workers.
"To live with HIV is a difficult condition, even today with therapy. And I think there are so many other aspects – you know, the complicated drug regimens that people have to take – that you experience discrimination. So, I think to cope with this difficult condition it’s absolutely necessary that you have a good social network. And that’s why we looked at this question."
Professor Bucher says developing countries won’t be able conduct similar studies until they, too, are able to treat large numbers of patients with the latest drugs. But he says it’s clear there are many other ways to treat a patient in addition to drug therapy.