HIV/Aids

25 April 2016

People with HIV may age more rapidly

With ART, many people with HIV can expect to live for decades after being infected. However, doctors have noted that these patients often show signs of premature ageing.

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People with HIV may age prematurely, putting them at increased risk for earlier death, a new study indicates.

Early death

With antiretroviral therapy, many people with HIV can expect to live for decades after being infected with the Aids-causing virus. However, doctors have noted that these patients often show signs of premature ageing.

Using what they called a highly accurate marker for ageing on a biological level, the study authors reported that HIV seems to cause an average of nearly five years of premature ageing.

Read: Old age comes faster for HIV+

This increases the risk of early death by 19 percent, according to the study published in the journal Molecular Cell.

"The medical issues in treating people with HIV have changed," said study co-author Howard Fox, a professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre in Omaha.

Read: Ageing with HIV

"We're no longer as worried about infections that come from being immunocompromised. Now we worry about diseases related to ageing, like cardiovascular disease, neurocognitive impairment and liver problems," he said in a journal news release.

It may be possible to develop drugs to slow or prevent premature ageing in people with HIV, but the researchers said the best option at the moment is for patients to follow healthy lifestyle habits.

They include proper nutrition, regular exercise and avoiding drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Read more:

What is HIV/Aids?  

Symptoms of HIV/Aids

Prevention of HIV infection

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HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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