The report was released online July 17 and published in the July 19 print issue of The Lancet.
For the current study, Smith and her colleagues reviewed data on nearly 50,000 people who were HIV-positive. Specifically, they looked at deaths between 1999 and 2011. The researchers adjusted the data to account for factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, weight and whether or not someone had additional illnesses.
Despite the success of antiretroviral therapy, AIDS-related death was still the most common cause of death, accounting for 29 percent of the nearly 4,000 deaths seen over the study period, the researchers found.
Although deaths from most causes dropped, deaths from non-AIDS cancers remained the same from 1999 to 2011. In fact, non-AIDS cancers are the leading cause of non-AIDS deaths in those with HIV, making up 23 percent of all deaths, the study authors pointed out.
Among those who died from non-AIDS conditions, 15 percent died from lung cancer, 13 percent died from liver disease (mainly hepatitis) and 11 percent died from heart disease, they noted.
"We all know that getting HIV patients into care, getting them on their medicines, will lead to better outcomes," said Dr. Michael Horberg, director of HIV/AIDS at Kaiser Permanente in California. "The decline in deaths is really remarkable."
People are living longer with HIV, but the treatment is not easy and no one should think of HIV as a chronic disease without consequences, Horberg said.
"You can have side effects from your medicine. A number of patients do get those bad AIDS-related cancers and non-AIDS-related cancers and liver disease, even with taking their medication," he explained.
Horberg noted that to reduce deaths, patients need to take medications
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