August 12, 2010
The care of HIV-positive individuals should include close attention to the co-morbid conditions that can arise from the infection or HIV treatment, says a study presented at the recent 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
"We just want to make sure that both patients and doctors treating people with HIV don't just focus on the T-cells," said Renslow Sherer, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and one of those who presented the report.
The problem of co-morbid conditions has become more acute as people with HIV live longer and become susceptible to the illnesses that arise with aging. In addition, long-term HIV antiretroviral therapy can produce or exacerbate medical complications.
"It's great that HIV clinicians are focusing on antiretroviral therapies and patients are doing so much better," Sherer said. "But people are now dying from heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, and stroke."
Authors of the study, the AIDS Treatment for Life International Survey, or ATLIS 2010, called for patients and their doctors to make sure co-morbid conditions are not overlooked. In the study, two-thirds of HIV patients said they had at least one co-morbid condition, but the same proportion reported limited conversation with their physicians about such illnesses.
At the same time, the study authors urged physicians to address habits among their patients that can compromise good health.
For example, some physicians believe smoking is a good stress reliever and so do not discourage the habit in their HIV patients, said Dr. Jose Zuniga, president and CEO of the study's sponsor, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care. "They're actually doing their patients a great disservice. We have an opportunity, as health care providers, to mitigate the effects of these co-morbidities," he said.