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Women Fare Better in S. Africa HIV/AIDS Treatment Study

FILE - A patient, right, is attended to at an AIDS clinic at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg.

A new, long-term study in South Africa that looked at the results of an effective treatment for HIV-AIDS found that it increased life expectancy but was a bigger benefit to women than to men.

Antiretroviral therapy, or ART, became widely available in 2004. Jacob Bor of the Boston University School of Public Health and his colleagues analyzed treatment data collected in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province between 2001 and 2011 and said the scale-up of ART “dramatically transformed people’s lives.” Death rates on the whole decreased, and people were living longer.

“On the other hand," Bor said, "men seem to be benefiting less at the population level than women.”

For example, in less than a dozen years, the life expectancy for women increased by more than 13 years. But men gained only nine years.

Why? Bor said more than half the men who died of HIV-AIDS never sought treatment, even though free treatment was widely available. This suggests, he said, that better ways are needed to persuade men to get tested and treated.

“Often when a man goes to a clinic, he’s sitting in a room with dozens of women and is the only man there," Bor said. "And that can be an uncomfortable experience. And so male clinics are one idea that people have thought about.”

Another approach, he said, is self-testing, which allows men to find out their HIV statuses in private. Also, Bor noted that even though clinics provide tests and treatment for free, there are other costs for patients. Paying for transportation and missing time at work may deter men from getting tested and treated for HIV-AIDS.

The research paper by Bor and his colleagues was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.