Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Growing Older with HIV…

At the start of the epidemic more than 30 years ago, people who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS could expect to live only 1-2 years after that diagnosis. This meant that the issues of aging were not a major focus for people with HIV disease.

But today, thanks to improvements in the effectiveness antiretroviral therapy (ART), people with HIV who are diagnosed early in their infection, and who get and stay on ART can keep the virus suppressed and live as long as their HIV-negative peers. For this reason, a growing number of people living with HIV in the United States are aged 55 and older. Many of them have been living with HIV for years; others are recently infected or diagnosed. According to CDC, people aged 55 and older accounted for more than one-quarter (26% or 313,2000) of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. in 2011.

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day is observed each year on September 18. Want to get involved in this observance?

Complications Associated with Aging

So the good news is that people with HIV are living longer, healthier lives if they are on treatment and achieve and maintain a suppressed viral load. However, with this longer life expectancy Individuals living with long-term HIV infection exhibit many clinical characteristics commonly observed in aging: multiple chronic diseases or conditions, the use of multiple medications, changes in physical and cognitive abilities, and increased vulnerability to stressors.

Complications associated with long-term HIV infection

While effective HIV treatments have decreased the likelihood of AIDS-defining illnesses among people aging with HIV, HIV-associated non-AIDS conditions are more common in individuals with long-standing HIV infection. These conditions include cardiovascular disease, lung disease, certain cancers, HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND), and liver disease (including hepatitis B and hepatitis C), among others.

In addition, HIV appears to increase the risk for several age-associated diseases as well as to cause chronic inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with a number of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, lymphoma, and type 2 diabetes. Researchers are working to better understand what causes chronic inflammation, even when people are being treated with ART for their HIV disease.

HIV and its treatment can also have profound effects on the brain. Although AIDS-related dementia, once relatively common among people with HIV, is now rare, researchers estimate that more than 50 percent of people with HIV have an HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND). HAND may include deficits in attention, language, motor skills, memory, and other aspects of cognitive function that may significantly affect a person’s quality of life. People who have HAND may also experience depression or psychological distress. Researchers are studying how HIV and its treatment affect the brain, including the affects on older people living with HIV.

Jefferson County Public Health offers screening, diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) at our Lakewood site, 645 Parfet Street or check out the HIV and AIDS Information on our website

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