People With HIV/AIDS at Greater Risk for Chronic Illnesses, Study Finds

Alison Rodriguez

People living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) may be at a greater risk for a variety of chronic illnesses and may require additional care as the older PLWHA population increases, a recent study suggested.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, evaluated the magnitude of association of HIV infection on developing chronic conditions. Chronic disease risks of diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancers, lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cognitive impairment were compared between PLWHA and HIV individuals in a large, de-identified private insurance claims dataset.

“People living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) have a growing life expectancy in the US due to early provision of effective antiretroviral treatment. This has resulted in increasing exposure to age-related chronic illness that may be exacerbated by HIV/AIDS or antiretroviral treatment. Prior work has suggested that PLWHA may be subject to accelerated aging, with earlier onset and higher risk of acquiring many chronic illnesses,” the authors explained. “However, the magnitude of these effects, controlling for chronic co-morbidities, has not been fully quantified.”

The study included 9,141,867 enrollees aged 50 and above who had been enrolled for at least 1 year. The results suggested that HIV status is statistically and significantly associated with higher levels for all chronic illnesses examined. Additionally, HIV infection had a greater association on the development of the chronic conditions among those who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS later, according to the results.

“This study contributes towards our understanding of chronic illness among PLWHA prior to age 65. With an aging PLWHA population, both medical practitioners and health policymakers must understand the risks this growing vulnerable population faces as they are exposed to the natural aging process in addition to unique risks due to HIV and HIV treatment,” noted the authors. “Quantification of the magnitude of chronic disease risk will enable more tailored preventative and screening programs for this population.”

The authors suggest that future work should explore age-stratified chronic disease in the PLWHA population. More work is also needed to better understand the role of HIV diagnosis age in relationship to chronic disease onset.


Yang H, Beymer M, Suen S. Chronic disease onset among people living with HIV and AIDS in a large private insurance claims dataset [published online December 6, 2019]. Scientific Reports. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-54969-3.

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