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Uh Oh, is HIV Making Your Cough Worse?

respiratory health

Recent studies show that even those with undetectable HIV are at a higher risk for lung cancer.

Results from a recent study from the UK, which compared HIV positive and HIV negative participants, showed that those living with HIV tended to have much higher instances of serious respiratory health problems, even those on antiretroviral therapy (ART) with a fully suppressed viral load.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Royal Free Hospital in London, wanted to further understand the relationship between HIV infection and respiratory health in the new age of ART. There was a higher prevalence of respiratory health impairment and breathlessness among the people with HIV compared to HIV-negative participants.

“Breathlessness was common in HIV-positive participants, with 47% reporting this to be present and of at least moderate severity, compared with 25% of the HIV-negative participants,” stated the authors of the study.

Impaired respiratory health was associated with poorer lung function and depression. Combining the HIV-positive and HIV-negative groups, there were no significant associations between respiratory health and gender, ethnicity, smoking status and drug use.

Another recent study, conducted at various Kaiser Permanente facilities in California, showed evidence that a history of smoking, alcohol intake and a history of pneumonia increased the chances of developing lung cancer for those living with HIV.

In the Kaiser study, published in the International AIDS Society Journal, researchers followed nearly 300,000 people of mixed HIV status (some positive, some negative), and found that factors like smoking and drug or alcohol abuse also contributed to a higher lung cancer risk in people living with HIV, but a low or suppressed viral load did not seem to lower the risk.

These findings are significant because it shows that, regardless of viral load levels, people living with HIV are more susceptible to developing serious respiratory issues like lung cancer. This information helps researchers direct their focus, so that they can figure out why this is occurring, as well as to find better treatment and prevention options for these types of issues in relation to HIV.


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