By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com February 19 2003 1:00 AM ET
Seven years into the protease inhibitor-era of AIDS treatment, the outlook for people with HIV infection continues to improve. Encouraging new European data released Friday at the 10th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections show that the risk of developing AIDS or dying of the disease is still falling due to the success of highly active antiretroviral therapy. New drugs in the pipelines, some of which are expected to soon to hit the market, including the first HIV entry-inhibitor
medication, are expected to further stave off the advancement of HIV disease to an AIDS diagnosis.
Data presented at the conference show that despite all the drawbacks of currently available anti-HIV medications, the drugs continue to work well and their benefits have not been exhausted. Amanda Mocroft of Royal Free and University College Medical School in London outlined the outcomes of 9,803
people diagnosed with HIV in Europe between 1994 and 2002. Between 1994 and 1998, their risk of AIDS or death fell by 80%. Between September 1998 and the end of 2002, the risk of AIDS or death fell an additional 8% each six months. "Even though therapy is not perfect, it's working," Mocroft said.
Data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers who are studying 1,769 U.S. patients diagnosed since 1994 corroborates the European studies, said Scott Holmberg, a senior epidemiologist at the CDC.
The outlook for HIV-positive people is worst when therapy begins when the person has a high level of virus in the blood and very low T-cell counts, according to the researchers. Mocroft's team found that survival has significantly improved in recent years among people who start treatment with low viral loads but not among those with higher levels.