Drugs for HIV/AIDS Saves Three Million Years of Life

The survival time due to drug treatments of AIDS/HIV is adding 2.8 million years of life to individuals in the United States, according to a study published Thursday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The study by researchers at Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Boston Universities also estimated that drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmissions of HIV have averted 2,900 infant infections, saving an additional 137,000 years of life.

“Globally, the numbers are staggering,” said A. David Paltiel, associate professor of public health in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale. “This analysis makes the strongest case yet for population-wide HIV screening and universal access to lifesaving therapies, both here and abroad.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS and the 10th anniversary of the use of multi-drug antiretroviral combinations for the treatment of HIV infections. This year the U.S. government will spend $21 billion for HIV/AIDS research, treatment, prevention and related activities.

“This study clearly shows the dramatic impact that sustained investment in biomedical research can have in improving the lives of Americans,” said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health.

The investigators estimated the survival benefits of AIDS drugs using national surveillance and efficacy data for newly diagnosed adult AIDS patients under care in the U.S. from 1989 to 2003. They divided those years into eras corresponding to specific advances in AIDS care. They then used a computer simulation model to estimate per person survival time for each era compared to the absence of treatment.

Other authors on the study include lead author Rochelle Walensky, M.D., Paul Sax, Milton Weinstein and Lauren Mercincavage, all of Harvard; Elena Losina of Boston University and Bruce Schackman of Cornell.

Journal of Infectious Diseases: (online edition June 1, 2006)

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