Patients who tested positive for HIV used to fear a "certain death sentence," as there's no cure for the virus, per HealthDay News. New research puts those fears to rest, with scientists saying that those with HIV in the US can now expect a similar life expectancy as those who don't have it. In a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, researchers found that mortality for those entering HIV care fell "dramatically" over a nearly 20-year span, based on federal figures on death rates for nearly 82,766 adults who entered HIV care between 1999 and 2017. The difference in early death rates between people with HIV and those in the general American population was 11.1 percentage points for those who entered HIV care between 1999 and 2004, while it was just 2.7 percentage points for those entering HIV care between 2011 and 2017.
"In the early days of the AIDS pandemic, getting a diagnosis with AIDS was incredibly bad news and the prognosis for survival was really poor, and that's not true today," lead study author Jessie Edwards tells HealthDay. "Someone diagnosed with HIV in this day and age can be linked to care and receive highly effective treatment and feel confident that their survival outlook is actually very good." While HIV patients did remain "at modestly higher risk for death in the years after starting care than comparable persons in the general US population," the study didn't take into account other sociodemographic factors separate from HIV infection, the Hill notes. In more sobering news, that outlet adds another recent study out of the Penn State College of Medicine suggests HIV patients are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and to die from suicide than those who don't have HIV. Both studies underscore the need for access to both general health care and mental health services. (Read more HIV stories.)