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Living with HIV and AIDS

by Joe Lawrence December 15th, 2017 | Aging Well, Health Observance
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medicineIn the United States, there are roughly 1.1 million people living with AIDS. Awareness is at an all time high and there are many advances in research and treatment. These advances in medicines, treatment, and living with the disease have created a welcome side effect: an aging AIDS population. However, with this comes a few more issues.

It is estimated that by the year 2020 more than half of those infected with the virus will be over the age of 50 (current numbers are roughly one third). This is great news on the surface because people are now surviving for much longer than before. The bad news is that those who have been living with AIDS for all of these years are aging faster than those without. They are experiencing spikes in heart disease, weakened bones, and more.

Advances in medicine are allowing many AIDS patients to live out a semi-normal life and reach normal lifespans. The danger is that there are upticks in these patients getting diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney disease. The chance of getting these issues as a senior is not alarming; however, those suffering from AIDS are much more likely to contract these diseases and they are going to be impacted more by the effects because of the massively weakened immune system.

Ways to help combat these issues are to boost the immune system and to make some healthier life style choices. For example, smoking and drinking excessively is likely to hurt the bodies natural defenses against these issues even more and compound the impact of kidney or heart disease. The biggest fear of many AIDS patients is not the disease itself; rather, the opportunistic infections that lead to the other diseases mentioned before.

There is much research on helping to cure AIDS and to help people cope long term with the disease. One study was done using a growth hormone that was intended to jump start the thymus. This is a crucial gland to the immune system and often shuts down after the HIV infection takes hold. This particular research was aimed at boosting the body’s immune system to help sufferers thwart off enemies attacking the body. There was an observed success when examining the blood counts. The thymus increased in size and doubled the amount of T cells produced.

Medicinally, research like this provides great hope to those suffering from AIDS. Since it is expected that many patients will live to achieve a traditional life span, being able to live with the disease is vital. Having a stronger immune system allows the body to fight of opportunistic infections known to cause heart disease, diabetes, etc.

 (Photo courtesy of Jana Kollarova)

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.