A new study by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) suggests that HIV causes immune cells to age quicker than normal—potentially causing more rapid HIV disease progression in older people with HIV and earlier onset of aging-related diseases in younger people.
To read the full article discussing these findings, go to: http://www.poz.com/articles/hiv_telomere_sensescence_761_19813.shtml.
This article supports the concept of accelerated aging. Accelerated aging refers to a recent phenomenon in the HIV literature. Studies are finding that people living with HIV are demonstrating higher rates of illnesses typically found in older HIV-negative populations. Comparisons of brain scan patterns and bone marrow density of people living with HIV with the HIV-negative, and found that significant percentage of the HIV-positive participants have results similar to HIV-negative participants 10 and 20 years older. This article suggests that an explanation for accelerated aging lies in the way HIV impacts immune cell functions.
This area of research is still in a beginning phase, and the findings in any of these areas are not conclusive, nor can they be extrapolated to determine how living with HIV into midlife and beyond will affect any one person’s physical aging. Illness progression or age-related physical changes can be the result of many factors, including, but not limited to: the presence of HIV; aging; heredity; environment and lifestyle. Research on aging with HIV has correlated healthy aging with modifiable issues, such as social involvement, mood, treatment adherence, and alcohol use.
This research could result in treatment interventions that address accelerated aging on the cellular level. A growing concern for the expanding population of those living with HIV into midlife and beyond. Until this issue is more clearly understood efforts need to be taken to address the health concerns of people who have lived longer than they ever expected, and to help individuals determine what steps they can take to improve their lives.