People with HIV may age prematurely, putting them at increased risk for an earlier death, a new study indicates.
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 aging.
Using what they called a highly accurate marker for aging on a biological level, the study authors reported that HIV seems to cause an average of nearly five years of premature aging. This increases the risk of early death by 19 percent, according to the study published April 21 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 Center in Omaha.
“We’re no longer as worried about infections that come from being immunocompromised. Now we worry about diseases related to aging, 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 aging 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.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about HIV/AIDS.