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Aging HIV patients face new challenge

07-27-2012 13:53 BJT

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South Africa is home to most of the world’s people with HIV. The country has made great achievements in combating HIV over the last few years. A recent suvey shows 1.7 million people are receiving treatment, and HIV transmission from mother to child has declined from 8 percent in 2008 to less than three per cent in 2011. Despite the achievements, the country still faces challenges.

People with HIV may live longer with the help of modern medicine. But, those who have spent decades battling the virus may be aging prematurely. This, presents a new challenge for both patients and doctors alike.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of Nat'l Inst. of Allegy and Infectious Diseases,said, "The individuals who are doing really, really well, who are now in their 50s, 60s and even beyond that, who are getting diseases that are related to the ill effects that you get from being infected so long with or without medications, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, renal disease."

Zee Turner is a 53-year-old, long-term HIV patient. She has kept the virus under control with the use of daily medication since she was diagnosed nearly 24 years ago.The virus has attacked nerve endings in her legs and feet, causing numbness and tingling.

Zee Tuner, an aging HIV patient,said, "I’m going to keep on moving. I’m not going to let this stop me. It’s been a long battle."

But there may still be a long way to go.

Studies are examining how heart disease, thinning bones and a list of other health problems typically seen in the senior years seem to hit many people with HIV when they’re only in their 50s. The research comes at a critical time for an aging HIV population.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said, "So it’s almost created a new sub-specialty of medicine, namely people whose HIV disease is under control but who are now facing, prematurely, many problems that they may or may not have faced in life later on. They’re facing it at a higher incidence and they’re facing it earlier."

People 50 or older made up about 17 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2009, according to the latest data of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

By 2040, the number of people living with HIV at over 50 in sub-Saharan Africa could reach 9 million.

Today, people who are diagnosed and treated early can expect a near-normal life-span. What these pioneering survivors can expect as they reach middle age or beyond is unknown.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: CCTV.com

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