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HIV patients at greater risk of other conditions, Anglia Ruskin University study finds

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People living with HIV have an increased risk of contracting a number of diseases and illnesses.

An umbrella review led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and the Medical University of Vienna examined 55 illnesses by combining data from 20 studies.

A blood sample in the lab (15394597)
A blood sample in the lab (15394597)

About 1.8 million people are infected each year, although the number has been falling. Better access to antiretroviral treatment has led to increased life expectancy for HIV patients but this, combined with lower immunity, has meant higher levels of comorbidity - meaning those living with the disease are more likely to suffer from other conditions.

The study suggests the greater prevalence of age-associated diseases may be explained by the persistent immunodeficiency and inflammation connected with HIV, and there are also adverse effects associated with antiretroviral treatment.

Other studies have found that people living with HIV in developed countries, as a population, are often more likely to be at risk of illnesses related to smoking, drug use and alcohol use.

Senior author Dr Lee Smith, reader in physical activity and public health at ARU, said: "There has been a major shift in how we view HIV. It is no longer a death sentence but rather a manageable chronic illness.

“By pooling data from different studies, we’ve been able to show for the first time that even with the rise in life expectancy amongst people living with HIV, this population now seems to be disproportionately affected by chronic illnesses often attributable to lifestyle issues such as smoking, drug and alcohol use, or more commonly associated with an older population.

“We’re unable to say for certain which are caused or exacerbated by HIV and its treatment, and which are related to lifestyle. However, the elevated risk levels highlighted in our study should hopefully lead to further research to improve both the prevention and early detection of these comorbidities in people living with HIV. Public health bodies worldwide should reflect on these findings.”

The study was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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