OTTAWA, July 17, 2012 — Many people living with HIV are aging and may also suffer from chronic diseases, creating complex treatment needs in these patients. Recognizing and dealing with aging-related diseases such as cardiovascular illnesses, cancers and dementia in the context of the AIDS pandemic will be a key theme at the 19th international AIDS conference, AIDS 2012, in Washington, D.C., from July 22 to 27, 2012. The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a special edition to coincide with the conference in which University of Ottawa professor Edward Mills discusses the challenges ahead for aging AIDS patients.
“To date, there’s no guidance in developing countries on how to manage aging HIV-positive patients. Most clinics have only antiretroviral therapy but no access to care for common chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, which can be treated with simple and inexpensive drugs like statins and aspirin. Other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, certain cancers and cognitive disorders will present an ongoing challenge for resource-limited health systems.”
Professor Mills is also a guest editor of the journal AIDS, which will release a theme issue on aging at the conference. He emphasizes that, despite competing priorities in many settings in terms of resource allocation for HIV-infected individuals, there are reasons to focus on aging-related diseases— these older patients often make up the backbone of communities and must care for younger children.
Effectively addressing the needs of aging HIV-infected populations will require political intervention, stronger health systems, greater human resources and improved clinical infrastructure and expertise. AIDS 2012 is a chance to collectively chart a course forward.