Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Does HIV Cause Premature Aging?

New York Magazine ran a pretty disturbing piece about HIV+ individuals, and some possible new side effects to the virus as well as the HIV meds that have saved so many lives:

"Some fifteen years into the era of protease inhibitors and drug cocktails, doctors are realizing that the miracles the drugs promised are not necessarily a lasting solution to the disease. Most news accounts today call HIV a chronic, manageable disease. But patients who contracted the virus just a few years back are showing signs of what’s being called premature or accelerated aging. Early senility turns out to be an increasingly common problem, though not nearly as extreme as James’s in every case. One large-scale multi-city study released its latest findings this summer that over half of the HIV-positive population is suffering some form of cognitive impairment. Doctors are also reporting a constellation of ailments in middle-aged patients that are more typically seen at geriatric practices, in patients 80 and older. They range from bone loss to organ failure to arthritis. Making matters worse, HIV patients are registering higher rates of insulin resistance and cholesterol imbalances, and they suffer elevated rates of melanoma and kidney cancers and seven times the rate of other non-HIV-related cancers."

I can personally report that some of the men who regularly attend the HIV+ support group I drop in to have brought up a host of concerns about cognitive impairment and HIV, what it means, whether or not it's real and how to diagnose it. Well before this article came out. Some of them are realizing that something is not right, and are confused about what, if anything, they can do about it.

Also, I wonder if it's just me who noticed this lovely little factoid, which I believe is touched on later in the article:

"Either way, it is now clear that even patients who respond well to medications by today’s standards are not out of the woods. Current life-expectancy charts show that people on HIV medications could live twenty fewer years on average than the general population."

Scary stuff.

HIV and aging is a topic that I will be exploring with a little more regularity here at From The Ashes. It's a field of research and medicine that far too little is known about, and it's a subject that will take on more and more significance as the first generation of HIV survivors moves in to their 50's and 60's and (hopefully) beyond.

In the meantime, you can read the whole story here.

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