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Will HIV make me age faster?

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Research shows that HIV causes the immune system to age faster than it should, meaning that younger people with HIV can have 'older' immune systems. This is because the virus causes the immune system to become inflamed and also due to the effects it has on some of the CD4 cells.

Because of this, there has been a rise in the number of younger HIV positive people having age-related diseases and health problems – such as cancers, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of older people living with HIV experiencing age-related diseases. A 2014 study confirmed that age-related illnesses, particularly heart and kidney disease, were more common in older people who were living with HIV.

We have carried out research among the first generation of people growing older with HIV – you can read more in our Uncharted Territory report.

What is happening to my body as I get older?

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Over time, our bodies gradually lose strength, although we now know the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and exercising as we age. This means that older people now lead healthier, longer lives than in previous generations.

As people age, their immune systems make less of the specific T-cells needed to respond to new infections and to develop immunity after a vaccination. This is why it can generally be harder for older people to recover from illnesses and why they may not develop protection after an immunisation.

Improving your general health

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Although no one can stop the ageing process, lifestyle changes can be made which will help keep bodies stronger and healthier into old age. These include stopping smoking, exercising more and eating well, as well as managing HIV well.

Living with HIV can be an added complication when ageing, but improving general health can prepare bodies for a happy, healthy older age.

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This page has kindly been supported by Pfizer UK.