As AIDS Patients Age, A Complex Health Picture Emerges
AIDS patients who survived the first wave of the epidemic are now reaching the age when they might have expected to encounter health issues even apart from HIV. But the picture is complicated by the long-term effects of living with the disease, as well as by the medications they have taken to keep the virus in check, the AFP reported on May 30.
The long-term effects of living with the disease can include diminished memory, chronic neuropathy (nerve pain), and premature aging of the body’s systems.
The article noted that older AIDS patients sometimes live not only with the physical stress of the virus and their pharmaceutical regimens, but also financial hardship and isolation.
"I’ve often said to my doctors, ’You’re so worried about the AIDS but I’m gonna drop over from a heart attack,’" was how one longtime AIDS patient, Lou Grosso, 57, put it. "It bothers me; I’m having a good life and don’t want it to be cut short because my body thinks I’m 80."
A National Institutes of Health news release from last September explained some of what patients who have lived with the disease over the long term may face.
"In those with long-term HIV infection, the persistent activation of immune cells by the virus likely increases the susceptibility of these individuals to inflammation-induced diseases and diminishes their capacity to fight certain diseases," the release said.
"Coupled with the aging process, the extended exposure of these adults to both HIV and antiretroviral drugs appears to increase their risk of illness and death from cardiovascular, bone, kidney, liver and lung disease, as well as many cancers not associated directly with HIV infection.
"In addition, a growing number of adults in their 40s and 50s with long-term HIV infection are experiencing syndromes that resemble premature aging," the release added.