Although deaths from AIDS-related conditions continue to diminish among people living with HIV in countries where antiretroviral (ARV) therapy is widely used, deaths from non-AIDS-related cancers, end-stage liver disease and cardiovascular disease continue to increase, according to a study published in the August 15 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

Several studies have shown that since ARV therapy became available HIV-positive people are less likely to die from AIDS-related conditions than in the earlier years of the epidemic. To confirm this trend, Charlotte Lewden, MD, PhD, from the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) in Bordeaux, France, and her colleagues surveyed the health care providers of nearly 78,000 people living with HIV in France. Of these patients, 1,013 died in 2005 and had detailed medical documentation. Their records were compared to the results of a similar survey examining the medical records of 964 people who died in 2000.

Among the reported deaths in 2005, 36 percent were due to AIDS-related conditions, 17 percent from non-AIDS-related cancer, 11 percent from liver disease associated with hepatitis C, and 8 percent from cardiovascular disease. This represented a drop of 24 percent in the number who died from AIDS-related conditions in 2000, and an increase of up to 54 percent in the number who died from cancer, hepatitis C and cardiovascular disease.

Among those who died of cancers not related to AIDS or hepatitis, 31 percent were from lung cancer and 14 percent were from cancers of the digestive tract. The authors stress that preventive care such as quitting smoking and screening for cancers of the digestive tract could significantly reduce these deaths.