Illnesses in People With HIV
Thanks for stopping by to check out another day in my life. For those of you who have been HIV+ for any length of time, you have found out that HIV also carries the dangers of other illnesses.
Thanks to HIV treatment, it’s now thought many people with HIV will be able to live into their 70s.
Because of HIV treatment, the amount of illness and death caused by HIV has fallen dramatically, and starting treatment with anti-HIV drugs when your CD4 cell count is around 350 can also cut the risk of developing other serious illnesses, such as heart, kidney and liver disease as well as some cancers.
People with HIV still seem, however, to be more likely to develop some illnesses. These are often linked to infections, for example the skin infection MRSA which is resistant to some antibiotics.
Researchers in America have found that people with HIV seem to be one of the groups more likely to develop community-acquired MRSA (that means infection didn’t occur in a hospital or other residential care facility).
Now doctors in San Francisco have found a high rate of recurrence of MRSA in people with HIV. Their study involved 62 HIV-positive people with MRSA infection that was confirmed by laboratory tests. In all these patients the MRSA could be treated with antibiotics.
However, in 44 (71%) people MRSA recurred within five months, and about a quarter had the infection in the same place as before.
The most common site for MRSA infection was the genitals and buttocks. MRSA can be spread by close physical contact, so it is possible that some people acquired the infection during sex.
A thorough wash with soap and water can reduce the risk of infection with MRSA. Although there are often horror stories in the media about MRSA, the fact is that most MRSA infections respond well to treatment.
Researchers have found that keeping the immune system strong reduces the risk of people with HIV developing cancer – including cancers that are traditionally linked to HIV (Kaposi’s sarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), and those that are not.
The study involved over 23,000 people and was originally intended to try and see if HIV treatment caused side-effects, particularly heart problems.
But the researchers were also able to use the information they had gathered to see what effect HIV treatment has on the risk of cancer.
A total of 305 people died of cancer. There was a very low risk of dying of any type of cancer if a person had a reasonably strong immune system. Not taking HIV treatment increased the risk of dying from an HIV-related cancer. One of the risk factors for dying from a non-HIV-related cancer was being older.
Other studies have shown that certain infections increase the risk of cancers in people with HIV, and the latest research backed this up, showing that hepatitis B virus increased the risk of death from liver cancer. Behaviours can also increase the risk of some cancers, for example smoking and lung cancer – a link that was also found in the latest research.
So while you are watching your T-cell and viral load counts, remember to make sure you report anything new to your health care provider at your next appointment.
Wishing you health, hope and happiness.
Big bear hug,