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Surviving HIV

A comprehensive study quantifies a dramatic increase in survival chances over the past decade

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3:14pm, July 1, 2008

People who contracted HIV through sexual contact during the 1980s or early 1990s faced an 8 to 23 percent risk, depending on age, of dying within five years of infection.

Now, that same risk is close to nil, a new study finds.

The sharply lower mortality risk stems directly from a combination of anti-HIV drugs known by the slightly misleading abbreviation HAART, for highly active antiretroviral therapy.

HAART is a drug cocktail that interferes with a virus’s ability to copy its genetic information. This drug combination first reached doctors’ offices in the mid-1990s and, with ongoing modifications, has become the standard prescription for HIV-positive people in industrialized countries since then, says study coauthor Kholoud Porter, an epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council in London.

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