Background: Combination antiretroviral therapy has led to significant increases in survival and quality of life, but at a population-level the effect on life expectancy is not well understood. Our objective was to compare changes in mortality and life expectancy among HIV-positive individuals on combination antiretroviral therapy.
Methods: The Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration is a multinational collaboration of HIV cohort studies in Europe and North America. Patients were included in this analysis if they were aged 16 years or over and antiretroviral-naive when initiating combination therapy. We constructed abridged life tables to estimate life expectancies for individuals on combination antiretroviral therapy in 1996-99, 2000-02, and 2003-05, and stratified by sex, baseline CD4 cell count, and history of injecting drug use. The average number of years remaining to be lived by those treated with combination antiretroviral therapy at 20 and 35 years of age was estimated. Potential years of life lost from 20 to 64 years of age and crude mortality rates were also calculated.
Findings: 18 587, 13 914, and 10 854 eligible patients initiated combination antiretroviral therapy in 1996-99, 2000-02, and 2003-05, respectively. 2056 (4.7%) deaths were observed during the study period, with crude mortality rates decreasing from 16.3 deaths per 1000 person-years in 1996-99 to 10.0 deaths per 1000 person-years in 2003-05. Potential years of life lost per 1000 person-years also decreased over the same time, from 366 to 189 years. Life expectancy at age 20 years increased from 36.1 (SE 0.6) years to 49.4 (0.5) years. Women had higher life expectancies than did men. Patients with presumed transmission via injecting drug use had lower life expectancies than did those from other transmission groups (32.6 [1.1] years vs 44.7 [0.3] years in 2003-05). Life expectancy was lower in patients with lower baseline CD4 cell counts than in those with higher baseline counts (32.4 [1.1] years for CD4 cell counts below 100 cells per muL vs 50.4 [0.4] years for counts of 200 cells per muL or more).
Interpretation: Life expectancy in HIV-infected patients treated with combination antiretroviral therapy increased between 1996 and 2005, although there is considerable variability between subgroups of patients. The average number of years remaining to be lived at age 20 years was about two-thirds of that in the general population in these countries.