August 12, 2013
With effective antiretroviral therapy (ART), people living with HIV are able to have long, healthy lives, to the point where they can now expect an almost normal lifespan. However, we're also seeing a lot of other health problems linked to aging with HIV.
Treatment Action Group (TAG) recently released a report to highlight some of the key issues surrounding the immune system, HIV and aging. Some of these issues include cardiovascular, kidney and liver disease; bone loss and increased fracture risk; frailty; cognitive impairment; and cancer.
In the report, TAG writes:
As the proportion of older individuals living with HIV grows, there is an urgent need to understand how a broad array of factors may be contributing to this phenomenon [of premature aging]; these factors include inflammation, immune dysregulation, polypharmacy, long-term drug toxicities, and coinfections and comorbidities that are disproportionally prevalent among people with HIV, such as hepatitis B and C, current or former substance-use disorders, stress, and depression. [...]
As a general recommendation, HIV-positive individuals should consider the lifestyle factors that are now known or expected to maximize health once a person reaches old age; these include daily exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining low blood pressure and cholesterol, and avoiding substance abuse and excess fat gain.
While there are no immediate answers, the report introduces some of the current research into HIV and aging, while also pointing out questions that still need to be addressed.
Warren Tong is the research editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.