HIV was nearly 50 percent less fattal in 2018 than it had been a decade prior in 2010, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data reveal.
The sexually transmitted infection was once treated as virtually a death sentence, but with the advent of better antiretrovirals, including Gilead’s blockbuster Truvada, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), fewer people are developing HIV, and those who are HIV-positive can expect to have normal lifespans.
Even in the last decade, the outlook for HIV-positive people has improved dramatically, the CDC found.
The number of deaths from HIV among people who are positive has plummeted 48.44 percent since 2010, the CDC found.
The HIV death rate fell nearly 50% from 2010 to 2018, amid the advent of highly effective antiretroviral drugs and preventives, CDC data found
In 2010, 9.1 out of every 1,000 people who became infected with HIV died of the virus.
But by 2018, that rate had plunged to just 4.7 out of every HIV-positive people.
That’s a very far cry from the historical deadliness of the disease.
HIV is a highly infectious and devastating virus, that can be sexually transmitted or spread through needle sharing.
The persistent virus, left to its own devices in the body, can lay waste to the immune system, becoming AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome – and leaving people extremely vulnerable to secondary infections that would be nothing more than a nuisance to others, but can be deadly to those with HIV.
After being identified in 1981, HIV became the second-leading cause of death among people ages 25-44.
Its fatality rate peaked in 1995, killing more than 16 out of every 100,000 people who died in the U.S.
Today, thanks in part to the work of top infectious disease physician Dr Anthony Fauci as well as outspoken advocates, especially from the gay community, HIV-positive people live to an average age of 77, akin to the 78.5 years of life HIV-negative people can expect to live.
Antiretroviral cocktails prevent HIV from replicating, meaning that they leave other cells largely alone, and are rarely passed on.
As a result, today’s death rate is far lower. In 2010, 16,742 HIV-positive people died of HIV. The number of fatalities from the infection declined to 15,483 in 2018.
Deaths from all causes among HIV-positive people have declined, but not as steeply as those from the STI itself.
Non-HIV-related deaths among HIV-positive Americans declined too, but by a less dramatic 8.6 percent, the CDC found.
This suggests that HIV itself is killing fewer people that contract the disease, but that other health issues – including heart disease, substance abuse and diabetes – may still be an outsize burden on this group.
‘Deaths among persons with HIV have decreased, and by 2018 had surpassed the 2020 national target, primarily because of a reduction in HIV-related deaths,’ wrote the CDC.
‘Deaths caused by HIV infection have likely decreased because of improvements in diagnosing infections and in treatment and medical care.
‘However, differences in HIV-related death rates still exist for multiple populations. Diagnosing HIV infection early, treating it promptly, and maintaining access to high-quality care and treatment over a lifetime can improve life expectancy and reduce differences in rates of deaths across all populations.’