Life expectancy of HIV-positive people after starting combination antiretroviral therapy: a meta-analysis

HIV Med. 2017 Apr;18(4):256-266. doi: 10.1111/hiv.12421. Epub 2016 Aug 31.


Objectives: Life expectancy is an important indicator informing decision making in policies relating to HIV-infected people. Studies estimating life expectancy after starting combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) have noted differences between income regions. The objective of our study was to perform a meta-analysis to assess life expectancy of HIV-positive people after starting cART, and to quantify differences between low/middle- and high-income countries.

Methods: Eight cohort studies estimating life expectancy in HIV-positive people initiating cART aged ≥ 14 years using the abridged life table method were identified. Random effects meta-analysis was used to pool estimated outcomes, overall and by income region. Heterogeneity between studies was assessed with the I2 statistic. We estimated additional years of life expected after starting cART at ages 20 and 35 years.

Results: Overall life expectancy in high-income countries was an additional 43.3 years [95% confidence interval (CI) 42.5-44.2 years] and 32.2 years (95% CI 30.9-33.5 years) at ages 20 and 35 years, respectively, and 28.3 (95% CI 23.3-33.3) and 25.6 (95% CI 22.1-29.2) additional years, respectively, in low/middle-income countries. In low/middle-income countries, life expectancy after starting cART at age 20 years was an additional 22.9 years (95% CI 18.4-27.5 years) for men and 33.0 years (95% CI 30.4-35.6 years) for women, but was similar in the two sexes in high-income countries. In all income regions, life expectancy after starting cART increased over calendar time.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that the life expectancy of HIV-positive people after starting cART has improved over time. Monitoring life expectancy into the future is important to assess how changes to cART guidelines will affect patient long-term outcomes.

Keywords: HIV; combination antiretroviral therapy; life expectancy; meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / methods*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Survival Analysis
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents