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Drugs Can Bring HIV-Infected Africans Normal Life Spans
Date:7/19/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Since their advent in the mid-1990s, powerful antiretroviral therapies have radically improved the life expectancy of HIV-infected patients in the developed world.

Now, research suggests that when made affordable and accessible, the same drug cocktails are equally effective for African patients.

The finding stems from a Canadian research team's investigation -- deemed the largest of its kind to date -- looking at HIV treatment efforts in Uganda. They found that HIV-infected Ugandan patients placed on combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) can expect the same life expectancy as Ugandans who are free of the virus.

"HIV/AIDS has historically been a death sentence in Africa," said study co-author Edward J. Mills, the Canada Research Chair in Global Health at the University of Ottawa. "But now we know that effective therapies, provided in a simplified and decentralized manner, can offer very favorable treatment effects in the African context in terms of reducing mortality and improving life expectancy."

Based on other recent studies, "we also now know that even in a resource-poor environment such as Africa, these treatments can actually prevent the spread of new infections to other people," Mills added.

His team released their findings online July 18 in advance of publication in the Aug. 16 print issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The authors noted that the current life expectancy for Ugandans who are not infected with HIV hovers around 55 years of age, a figure that trends upwards as residents age.

According to the study, about 200,000 HIV-positive Ugandans are currently on a cART regimen, while an equal number are waiting for such treatment.

To assess the effectiveness of cART in helping HIV-infected Ugandans achieve a longer life span, the authors focused on more than 22,000 HIV patients aged 14 or
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