People With Controlled HIV Don't Have Higher Death Risk, Study Finds

03/12/2013 05:24pm ET
Boxes of antiretroviral medicines sit on the desk of Indonesian doctor Desak Made Putri as she consults with a HIV positive patient at a clinic in Denpasar on the resort island of Bali, on December 10, 2010. AFP PHOTO / SONNY TUMBELAKA (Photo credit should read SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

People with well-controlled HIV through antiretroviral therapy have no higher risk of dying than people without HIV, according to a new study in the journal AIDS.

The study included 3,300 people with HIV with an average age of 43, who were on antiretroviral therapy and had undetectable HIV levels and high levels of CD4+ immune cells. Most of the participants were men.

Researchers followed up three years later with the study participants, and found that 62 of them had died. However, nearly all of the deaths were from non-HIV related causes: 31 percent were from sudden death or heart disease, and 19 percent were from cancers not related to HIV. Only 3 percent of the deaths (two deaths, to be exact) were actually from AIDS.

Researchers found that those whose CD4+ cell counts were lower than the general population had an increased risk of death. But people with HIV whose CD4+ counts were normal (a "normal" level is considered 500 to 1,000 cells/mm3), there was no significantly increased death risk.

"Our data support the importance of early diagnosis and treatment to improve clinical outcomes and it is likely that much of the excess mortality associated with HIV would be preventable with timely diagnosis of HIV and initiation of ART," study researcher Dr. Alison Rodger, of the University College London, said in a statement.

According to a study published late last year in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, deaths from HIV have gone down for most people between 1993 and 2007. However, the study also showed that poor people and black women did not experience such significant declines in HIV-related deaths, HealthDay reported.

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