ART could save 15.1 million years of life in South Africa by 2030

Antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV infection could save an additional 15.1 million years of life in South Africa by 2030, according to a study recently published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

According to UNAIDS, South Africa's HIV epidemic is the largest in the world, with an estimated 5.6 million infected individuals in 2011. The study authors found that ART treatment saved 2.8 million years of life in South Africa since 2004. The researchers used a mathematical model based on real data to determine the direct impact of ART on survival among South African HIV-infected patients going forward.

"We hope that this study reminds stakeholders of the astounding efficacy of the global ART rollout while simultaneously invigorating efforts to redouble commitments toward expanding the availability of ART," Michael April, the lead author of the study, said.

While half of the HIV-infected individuals in South Africa are eligible for treatment with ART, one-third of the eligible individuals remain without treatment. The study's estimates exclude individuals who might benefit from starting ART in the future but who are not yet receiving it.

"Policymakers have the power to magnify the future trajectory of survival gains further still by pursuing more aggressive HIV testing and treatment strategies," April said. "Increased case identification, early ART initiation, and expanded treatment options might catapult our conservative survival projections even further."

The study authors said that policymakers should examine strategies to expand HIV testing and treatment efforts to increase future potential survival gains.