An exciting new study reported in the latest issue of Science shows that the regular distribution of HIV medications in South Africa has resulted in “the most rapid life-expectancy gains observed in the history of public health.” Nurses involved in an anti-HIV/AIDS campaign provided daily doses of antiretroviral therapy to around 100,000 people in rural health clinics throughout the region. After ten years, researchers saw the lives of HIV patients extend by more than a decade, and a significant reduction “in the risk of infection for healthy individuals.” The L.A. Times has more:
In 2003, the year before the drugs were available, 29% of all residents were infected with HIV and half of all deaths there were caused by AIDS. Life expectancy in the region was just over 49 years.
By 2011, life expectancy had grown to 60 1/2 years — “the most rapid life expectancy gains observed in the history of public health,” said study senior author Till Barnighausen, a global health professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Based on that increase in longevity, researchers determined just how many years of life were effectively “gained” among residents as a result of ART intervention. They used that figure and the total expense of the program to calculate a cost-effectiveness ratio of $1,593 per life-year saved.