HIV and cancers of the immune system – CATIE – News

HIV infection damages the immune system and although potent combination anti-HIV therapy, commonly called ART or HAART, is widely available in high-income countries, it can only partially restore the immune system’s competence. As a result, defects in immunity persist. Although life-threatening AIDS-related infections are now uncommon among ART users, their risk for certain cancers is elevated compared to HIV-negative people. This elevated risk among HIV-positive people varies somewhat from person to person but arises from a complex intersection of several factors, likely including at least some of the following:

  • prolonged exposure to proteins produced by HIV-infected cells
  • certain behaviours such as higher-than-normal rates of smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol and use of other substances
  • insufficient exercise
  • being overweight
  • exposure to certain viruses

In this issue of TreatmentUpdate, we focus on the cancerous impacts of infections from the herpes virus family, such as EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus) and HHV-8 (human herpes virus-8) among HIV-positive people. These viruses are sexually transmitted and relatively common among HIV-positive people. Both herpes viruses have been linked to the development of cancers of the immune system—lymphoma. Our focus will also include reports of successful treatment of such cancers.
~ Sean R. Hosein

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