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Resource Spotlight: New Report on Immune Health, HIV, and Aging

, by San Francisco AIDS Foundation

As the population of older adults with HIV grows, more research is addressing the interaction of aging, immune function, and HIV-related health changes. Scientists are working to tease out the causes of typically age-related conditions that are seen more commonly among people living with HIV, sometimes at younger ages.

The Treatment Action Group’s new publication, The Immune System, HIV, and Aging, offers a glimpse into the state of the science on aging and HIV. “The purpose of this brief report,” the editors explain, “is to outline current scientific knowledge regarding the immunologic connections between HIV and aging, and provide an introduction to some of the unresolved questions that are being addressed—or need to be addressed—by research.”

The report, excerpted below, is available in full at www.treatmentactiongroup.org. And don’t miss the “Related Posts” section below with more research news and resources on aging and HIV.

The Immune System, HIV, and Aging

Little more than a decade ago, it was almost inconceivable that the issue of aging with HIV infection would emerge as an important concern. But it has now become clear that combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) can suppress virus replication for many years likely for life—in most people who can access the drugs, and the opportunistic infections that were once the primary causes of illness have largely evanesced everywhere treatment is available. Morbidity and mortality from HIV infection has plummeted, and the survival of HIV-positive individuals is edging ever closer to that of comparable HIV-negative people. With the specter of AIDS having finally been chased from the near horizon, attention has turned to health problems that may lie further down the road.

Looming largest are illnesses typically associated with aging. Examples include cardiovascular, kidney, and liver disease; bone loss and increased fracture risk; frailty; cognitive impairment; and cancer. Evidence is accumulating that the risk of these conditions is elevated in HIV-positive individuals and, in some cases, they may be occurring at a younger age, on average, than is typically observed among comparable HIV-negative populations. 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; 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….

Click here to access the full report at www.treatmentactiongroup.org.


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