The aging population of Americans with HIV/AIDS is in a much different spot than those infected before the drug cocktail was introduced in the mid-1990s. But new research reveals disturbing trends related to aging. The cause is likely either the disease or the medications, and the result is symptoms—from frailty to memory loss—more common in octogenarians than in the middle-aged population in question. More than half of HIV-positive Americans have some sort of cognitive impairment.
“It’s spooky,” a watcher tells New York. “It seems like the virus keeps finding new tricks to throw at us.” Researchers say physiological symptoms like osteoporosis may be related to the toxic drug cocktail that keeps the virus in check, while HIV’s ability to hide out in the brain could be responsible for cognitive impairment and even dementia. One study shows medicated HIV patients at 56 have immune systems comparable to 88-year-olds.