Young people on the latest HIV drugs now have near-normal life expectancy because of improvements in treatments, a study in The Lancet suggests.
Twenty-year-olds who started antiretroviral therapy in 2010 are projected to live 10 years longer than those first utilizing it in 1996, it found.
Doctors say that starting therapy early is crucial to achieve a long and healthy life.
Charities say there are still too many people unaware they have the virus.
This is particularly true in the developing world, where the majority of HIV deaths occur because access to drugs is limited.
More effective prevention
The survey authors, from the University of Bristol, said the extraordinary success of HIV therapies was a result of newer drugs having fewer side effects and being better at preventing the virus from replicating in the body.
It is also more difficult for the virus to build up a resistance to the most recent drugs.
Improved screening and prevention programmes and better therapy of health problems caused by HIV are thought to have helped, too.
But many people with HIV still do not live as long as expected, especially those infected through injecting drugs.
Antiretroviral therapy involves a combination of three or more medications which block the normal progress of HIV( human immunodeficiency virus ).
They have been called “one of the greatest public health success tales of the past 40 years”.
Drugs ‘do work’
Jimmy Isaacs, 28, detected he had been infected with HIV by a former partner virtually three years ago.
He takes three drugs once a day at 18:00 and will continue to do so for the rest of his life.
“My health is absolutely fine. I’m feeing healthily and drinking healthily, ” he said.
“It doesn’t impact on my job and hasn’t impacted on my social life either.”
Although it took two changes of medication to find the right combination for him, he says he now has no side effects at all.
“I had heard a lot of bad stories about the medications back in the ‘9 0s – but when I did some research, I realised the medications had altogether changed.”
Not all his employers have been supportive since his diagnosis and he says that is down to ignorance.
His current employer has given him time off to tour the country and speak to students and school pupils about HIV prevention and treatment.
The researchers looked at 88,500 people with HIV from Europe and North America who had been involved in 18 analyses.
They based their life-expectancy predictions on death rates during the first three years of follow-up after drug treatment was started.
They found that fewer people who started therapy between 2008 and 2010 died during this period compared with those who began treatment between 1996 and 2007.
The expected age at death of a 20 -year-old patient starting antiretroviral therapy( ART) after 2008, with a low viral loading and after the first year of therapy, was 78 years – similar to the general population.
What is antiretroviral therapy?
First used in 1996, it involves a combination of three or more narcotics that stop the HIV virus from replicating This entails damage to the immune system caused by HIV can be prevented and it stops the disease spreading to others More recent narcotics are even more efficient and have fewer side effects The World health organisation recommends that antiretroviral therapy is started as soon as is practicable after diagnosis