Many young people with HIV infection are now confronting a new problem – contracting diseases usually associated with ageing.
Co-head of Burnet’s Centre for Virology and a clinician at The Alfred, Professor Suzanne Crowe AM told ABC Radio Melbourne 774’s evening presenter Lindy Burns that she was regularly treating HIV infected people with these problems.
“At my HIV clinic at The Alfred, rather than seeing patients who have got AIDS, have been hospitalised and are very sick, we are treating people with age-related diseases,” she said.
“Diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes, dementia, the early onset of cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure are the things that we normally associate with ageing but we are now seeing them in people with HIV infection.
“People in their thirties and forties are starting to get these problems.
“At Burnet we have been doing some work over the last few years trying to work out why this is happening to people at such a young age,” she said.
Professor Crowe AM will present the findings of a Burnet study into ‘non-communicable diseases in people with HIV’ at the prestigious international AIDS 2012 Conference in Washington where the world’s experts in HIV/AIDS are gathering from 22-27 July.
“Burnet post-doc student, Anna Hearps and med student Genevieve Martin have been looking at this and what they have found is the immune system in young people with HIV infection is very similar to what we see in the immune system of healthy people who are very old,” she said.
“These changes in the immune system, particularly due to inflammation is very common in people with an HIV infection, but it does pre-dispose them to getting the diseases that we normally see in older people.
“Not only do we have HIV prematurely exhausting the immune system and causing these diseases, but we also have the situation that because of the effective drugs available people with HIV are now living longer and we have an ageing population with HIV infection that by itself is more likely to be developing these diseases.
“It’s not uncommon now to see people who have problems with their cholesterol, the fats in their blood, to have diabetes, or to have the early stages of heart disease in their forties rather than in their sixties which is more common.”
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