Objective: To model the potential impact of HIV infection rates and the use of antiretroviral medication on life expectancy and mortality in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from 1999 to 2006.
Design: Population projections were made to estimate the population of the Downtown Eastside in the year 2006.
Methods: Two scenarios were modelled to predict the impact of HIV infection and antiretroviral use on mortality and life expectancy. The use of antiretroviral therapy was estimated to be 80% in the first scenario and 20% in the second. The prevalence of HIV by age and sex, and by year infected was estimated using data from the Vancouver Injection Drug User Study.
Results: If the level of antiretroviral therapy use among HIV-positive individuals was 80% at baseline, then we estimate that the life expectancy at birth in the year 2006 will be 60.8 years for men and 72.8 years for women, and 172 AIDS deaths will occur between 1999 and 2006. In contrast, if the present level of antiretroviral medication use persists, the life expectancy at birth in the year 2006 will be 56.9 years for men and 68.6 years for women, and 503 AIDS deaths will occur between 1999 and 2006.
Conclusion: Our analysis suggests that if the low levels of antiretroviral therapy use persist, life expectancy in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside will soon be on a par with many of the world's least developed countries. Our findings highlight the large health status decline that can be expected in many inner city neighbourhoods if low levels of antiretroviral use persist. Although reasonable coverage targets for injection drug users (IDU) have not been established, the expanded use of antiretroviral medication is urgently needed to avert a drastic decline in health status.