HIV-infected people in Africa should plan on being around for a long time, according to a new study, which shows  patients who take a combination of HIV medications  can expect to live a near-normal lifespan.

Combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) is the use of more than one HIV medication.

The study suggests that those who undergo cART – even in resource-limited settings – should no longer automatically assume an HIV diagnosis is a death sentence.

Released this week, the findings provide much needed hope for those who suffer from HIV.

It was conducted by the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the University of British Columbia, in Canada.

Dr. Edward Mills, the study’s principal investigator, says HIV-infected people “should plan and prepare for a long and fulfilling life.”

The study also points out that since female study participants had a significantly longer life expectancy than the men, women should start treatment as early as possible.

Scientists involved with the study say this encouraging report provides the first large-scale analysis of life expectancy outcomes in Africa for HIV patients on cART.

Although the study was conducted in Uganda, researchers say the situation there is similar to many other African countries, where simplified HIV/AIDS care in rural to urban areas is available.

Life expectancy at birth in Uganda is approximately 55 years and increases as people survive key life events.

According to the study, life expectancy for 20-year-old HIV patients on the combination antiretroviral therapy was an additional 26.7 years, and those who are 35 can live an additional 27.9 years.

The report’s authors say their study should be seen as further evidence that global investment in various HIV and AIDS programs is working.

This weekend on the “Science World” radio program, Dr. Mills talks more about the team’s research and shares his thoughts on the findings.

Listen to an excerpt of our interview here:

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Or you can listen to the full version here:

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Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include: