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16 May 2017 | Comment | Article by Ruth Powell

HIV life expectancy – 20 years of progress

In 1996, HIV life expectancy for a 20 year old was less than 40. Fast forward twenty years and life expectancy has gone up to over 70 years. Where did those extra years come from?

Antiretroviral therapy is a combination of medicines which are used together to slow the progression of HIV within the body. Since the mid-1990’s, this form of treatment has become more efficient and the number of side effects have been dramatically reduced.

Some people are now able to take a single combination pill once a day with no side effects – a far cry from the myriad of problems which HIV sufferers had to contend with in previous decades.

This improvement in treatment is coupled with a steady decrease in the proportion of people with undiagnosed HIV, thanks to improved screening and initiatives such as home testing kits and walk-in clinics.

There still is no cure for HIV, but the ongoing refinement of diagnoses and treatments available mean that people with the virus are living longer and more comfortably than ever before.

With all of the advancements in diagnosis and treatment over the last 20 years, the question might arise, “Why would someone living with HIV need a solicitor?” The sad truth is that all of these advancements don’t take the human element into account. Having an early and accurate diagnosis comes down to the proper care and attention of a patient’s primary healthcare providers – mainly their GP. A misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose HIV can have a severe impact on the quality and duration of life that patient can expect to have. In these cases a negligence claim may be made against the GP or other primary care provider who ought to have diagnosed the HIV.

In some cases, HIV can be contracted due to a failure to disclose their infected status by a sexual partner. In these cases the patient may wish to press charges with the police and bring a criminal case against the one who knowingly infected them.

In other cases HIV can be contracted due to improper screening of blood given in a transfusion or through other hospital practices or procedures. In these cases there may be grounds for a negligence claim against the hospital.

HIV is still a terminal illness. Even though the life expectancy of HIV patients has increased dramatically, patients are still at higher risk of dying young. For this reason it is especially important that those living with HIV have their finances and their will in order.

At Hugh James the Medical Negligence team can help with either of the types of negligence that can happen in HIV cases, one of our Independent Financial Advisors can help ensure that nothing is left to chance from a financial point of view and the Tax, Wills and Estates team can make sure that estate planning is all sorted out.

Author bio

Ruth Powell


Ruth is a Partner and Head of our Clinical Negligence Department. She has exclusively practised in clinical negligence since qualifying in 1995 and has a wealth of experience in complex and high value clinical negligence claims.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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