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HIV and autoimmune diseases
Mar 30, 2013

Hi Dr. Young-

I am an AP Biology teacher and HIV+ and I also struggle with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease. So I was very intrigued when a question came up on an AP Biology teacher listserv that another teacher asked

I'm not an expert in Immunology, so I thought I'd solict the teacher community on a specific question that a student had. We were discussing autoimmune disorders and a student asked "since HIV interferes with immune function, would you expect to see a remission or lessening of autoimmune disease symptoms in people that had both an autoimmune disorder and active AIDS." Logically, that makes some sense, due to the fact that HIV is limiting the body's immune response, but I know that it is not the case. In fact, I know that sometimes autoimmune disorders, like lupus, become more common as a person develops AIDS; but I don't know why. Any immunology experts out there care to shed some light on the subject for me.

Another teacher found this link ... http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12848988

I was wondering if you could shed some light onto this topic as I struggle with both issues.

Thanks!

Response from Dr. Young

Hello and thanks for posting.

You have a very astute student. It is indeed very logical that autoimmune disease severity should wane as immune function declines with HIV-associated illness. This makes intuitive sense, but assumes that immune function is a single thing- it turns out that there are multiple features to immune function, not all of which are over stimulated in autoimmunity, nor are all suppressed with HIV.

Overall, there's not much scientific literature about the hypothesis that your student asked about, though anecdotally, I've seen some autoimmune symptoms (like rheumatoid arthritis) improve with waning CD4 cell counts, or flair when HIV treatment causes restoration of immune function.

I hope that helps, BY



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