"By the year 2015, nearly half of HIV-positive people in the U.S. will be over age 50. In San Francisco, that figure already stands at 40 percent. While about 15 percent of newly infected individuals are over 50, people who have lived with the virus for years or decades face distinct challenges." -via Bay Area Reporter
Project Inform held a September forum in which the aging HIV population and their ongoing medical issues were discussed. Here's what they said about HIV patients with undetectable viral loads, which up until now, has been the unofficial "touchdown" in HIV treatment:
"Even low-level so-called undetectable virus in people on effective treatment – which in fact can almost always be detected using ultrasensitive tests – can trigger persistent immune activation. In addition, HIV damages the gut lining during early infection, allowing bacteria to leak out and ignite system-wide inflammation. Antiretroviral therapy dramatically reduces immune activation and inflammation, but does not bring back the normal pre-HIV state.
...Chronic low-grade inflammation appears to be the common denominator underlying all these conditions, according to Dr Stephen Deeks at San Fransisco General. It is also increasingly implicated in age-related disease among HIV-negative people, demonstrating that long-term viral infection is only part of the puzzle."
I can tell you that I have experienced what's been characterized as "low-grade" (HA!) inflammation starting sometime after I began taking HIV meds. There are several blog posts dealing with the pain I was experiencing in my hand and wrist, and as soon as that cleared up, I experienced similar symptoms in my ankles and feet. I have been suffering from other forms of foot and knee pain so severe that I have often considered quitting my job as standing and walking both have become extremely difficult. I originally chalked this up to my ever-faster rush to the never-ending dirt nap, but I now feel that the sudden onset of symptoms coupled with the severity of the pain (I went from minor "wear and tear" discomfort to almost crippling joint and tendon pain) probably has an HIV connection. Whether it's cause is the underlying infection or the meds I have no idea. And apparently neither do the doctors.