Thirty years after its discovery, AIDS can be slowed, not cured. HIV medicines allow people infected with the virus to live longer, healthier lives, but researchers at the UH Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) are finding increased age-related complications among AIDS sufferers, too.
“Our research is showing higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancers,” said Dr. Cecilia Shikuma, Director of JABSOM’s Hawai’i Center for AIDS. “In our local HIV-infected population over the age of 40, 27% have evidence of diabetes or pre-diabetes, 56% show early signs of hardening of the arteries, and 54% have some memory problems.”
Dr. Shikuma believes that aging of the immune system plays a big role in causing these complications, and that HIV may be causing the immune system to age more rapidly.
Understanding how HIV affects the aging of the immune system is a key undertaking of the Hawai’i Center for AIDS, which has just recruited two new HIV immunologists, Jason Barbour and Lishomwa Ndhlovu, to JABSOM to work on better understanding the problem, with hopes of developing better treatment.
The Hawai’i Center for AIDS includes physicians who treat Hawai’i’s HIV-infected populations at the Clint Spencer Clinic, named in memory of the first patient to enroll in a research protocol through the Center for AIDS. The Center also collaborates with the Life Foundation, O’ahu’s main AIDS Service Organization.
Pictured: Dr. Cecilia Shikuma, Director, Hawai’i Center for AIDS.