Improvement in outcomes for patients with HIV/Aids


NEW RESEARCH into adults diagnosed with HIV/Aids in Ireland has recorded a marked improvement in outcomes for those in treatment.

However, there has been an increase in frequency of cases among gay men, while fewer men in rural areas are being tested.

The study, which is the first analysis of its type on the demographic data of Ireland’s adult HIV-diagnosed population, was conducted across six infectious disease treatment clinics between July 2009 and July 2010.

It identified 3,254 patients who had sought access to HIV specialist outpatient care at one of the State’s six centres – three in Dublin (St James’s Hospital, the Mater and Beaumont) and one each in Cork, Limerick and Galway.

A total of 82 per cent had sought care in one of the clinics at the three Dublin hospitals during the study period.

Some 87 per cent of HIV/Aids patients in care had a non-detectable viral load level, which indicated that the virus was fully suppressed as long as they stayed on treatment.

The study’s terms of reference were to estimate the number of adults infected with HIV, and to describe the demographics and clinical status of those on antiretroviral (ARV) treatments.

Authors of the study were Dr Helen Tuite, infectious diseases specialist registrar at St James’s Hospital, Dublin; Prof Colm Bergin, professor of medicine and infectious diseases, St James’s; Dr Aidan O’Hora, specialist in public health at the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC); and Dr Catherine Fleming, consultant in infectious diseases at Galway University Hospital.

Dr Fleming said the overall findings were very positive, and underlined the importance of regular testing. Consultants are concerned, however, about the continued reluctance of adults living in rural areas to seek a test.

While the majority of recorded cases have been among the heterosexual population, there was an increase in diagnoses of gay men last year. This could relate to greater prevalence of the condition in this group, or greater awareness of the need for testing.

A recent United Nations report found that improved drugs, wider access to treatment and better education was leading to a fall in the number of people being infected with HIV, and a decrease in mortality among people with Aids-related illnesses.

However, the UNAids programme warned that progress could be undermined by cuts in State spending on healthcare and medical research.

The UN study showed that some 34 million people are now living with HIV/Aids, but that new HIV infections and Aids-related deaths fell last year to their lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic.

Almost 50 per cent of those eligible for ARV drugs were now receiving them, the study found, including 6.6 million people in some of the world’s poorest countries.