Treatment News : Non-AIDS-Related Cancers Are Now the Leading Cause of Death in People With HIV - by David Evans

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

Back to home » Treatment News » March 2011

Most Popular Links
Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

20 Years Ago In POZ

More Treatment News

Click here for more news

Have news about HIV? Send press releases, news tips and other announcements to


March 4, 2011

Non-AIDS-Related Cancers Are Now the Leading Cause of Death in People With HIV

by David Evans

A Swiss study found that non-AIDS-related cancers have become the leading cause of death among people with HIV, in general, but that liver-related diseases far outweigh all other causes of death for people coinfected with both HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Meanwhile, a second study suggests that antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are not contributing to deaths from any cause. These studies were presented Tuesday, March 1, at the 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

Though a somber subject, it is critically important to understand the primary causes of death in people with HIV and how those causes change over time. Understanding the causes of death can help scientists and policy makers decide how to prioritize research funding, and the knowledge adds weight to activists’ efforts to ensure that the concerns and needs of people with HIV are being taken into account in government and private industry.

Numerous studies have documented the plunge in deaths overall since the introduction of combination ARV therapy in the late 1990s, as well as deaths from AIDS-related conditions. Subsequently, more attention has been paid recently to other causes of death and to trying to understand the factors, including HIV, that contribute to those deaths.

To shed light on this topic, Rainer Weber, MD, from the University Hospital in Zurich, and his colleagues from the long-running Swiss HIV Cohort Study, analyzed data on deaths within the cohort between 2005 and 2009 and also compared them with deaths from earlier time periods.

Out of 9,053 cohort participants, 459 deaths occurred between 2005 and 2009. Seventy-six percent of the deaths occurred in men, and most people were between the ages of 42 and 56 when they died. Ninety-three percent of the people who died had been on ARVs at some point, 45 percent were coinfected with HIV and HCV, and 82 percent had a history of smoking tobacco. Autopsies were conducted in 19 percent of the deaths.

Whereas 80 percent of deaths before 1995 were from AIDS-related causes, this number dropped to 16 percent by the 2005 to 2009 time period. During this period, non-AIDS-related cancers took over as the leading cause of death, with nearly 20 percent dying from such cancers. Liver-related deaths, excluding liver cancer, had climbed to be the cause of 15 percent of all deaths. Drug and alcohol-related deaths, as well as suicides remained far higher than in the general population, and combined, they also accounted for 15 percent of all deaths.

One further conclusion of the study was that while people are living longer before dying, deaths are also occurring at higher CD4-cell levels, reflecting the trend that a growing proportion of deaths is from causes other than AIDS.

In a second study, also based in Europe, Justyna Kowalska, MD, from the Copenhagen HIV Program, and her colleagues analyzed trends in deaths in the EuroSIDA cohort study. Over the course of the study, researchers followed more than 15,000 HIV-positive people throughout Europe. Most were white men, and roughly 30 percent had received a previous AIDS diagnosis. Just under 70 percent had taken ARVs.

During the course of the study, 2,744 people in the cohort died. Of the deaths, just over half were non-AIDS-related, with non-AIDS-related infections, liver disease and non-AIDS cancers comprising 46 percent of all deaths.

Kowalska and her colleagues were keen to understand the impact of ARV use, given that some side effects—most notably unhealthy changes in cholesterol, triglycerides and body composition—are associated with an increased risk for a host of disorders.

They found, however, that ARV use did not contribute to the death rates from any causes of death in people who started treatment after 2002. In those who started before 2002, ARVs appeared to be particularly protective against non-AIDS-related causes of deaths in the first two years after a person began taking the medications. However, this effect diminished after the second year.

Search: Deaths, mortality, non-AIDS-related cancer, liver disease, hepatitis C, HCV, coinfection, Swiss HIV Cohort Study, EuroSIDA, Rainer Weber, Justyna Kowalska

Scroll down to comment on this story.


(will display; 2-50 characters)


(will NOT display)


(will display; optional)

Comment (500 characters left):

(Note: The POZ team reviews all comments before they are posted. Please do not include either ":" or "@" in your comment. The opinions expressed by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong, which is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by people providing comments.)

Comments require captcha.
Please enter this number for verification:

| Posting Rules

Show comments (0 total)

[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar
POZ on Twitter

Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Did you participate in an event for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2016?


more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2016 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.