Posts tagged HIV worsening

Depression and HIV: The Risk for Heart Attack

Mental health is often overlooked. However, the state of one’s mental health is important. In a 2014 data report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), they revealed that every year, about 42.5 million American adults suffer from some form of mental illness. Find out how mental illness can lead to other concerns and how HIV-infected individuals with depression are at risk for heart attack.


Depression is a condition that leaves many feeling sad, unmotivated, and irritable. It is also known to contribute to debilitating conditions such as insomnia, fatigue, pain, and other problems. The illness can also lead to suicide, other mental disorders, and more importantly, heart disease.

The Rise of Cardiovascular Disease

According to a study published by JAMA Cardiology, those with major depressive disorder (MDD) and HIV are more likely to experience a heart attack than those without the mental disorder.

They examined 26,144 veterans with HIV and found that 4,853 of them had depression. Most of the veterans with depression were around 47 years of age. Researchers met with these veterans more than 5 years later, and discovered that 490 of them had an acute myocardial infarction during that time span.

After further research, they determined that those with depression and HIV were 25 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those without depression.

HIV patients are forced to deal with a life-threating condition every day. This could be the reason for their depression. Other cause factors include personal issues, substance abuse, and non-psychiatric illnesses.

According to the CDC, more than 1 out of 20 Americans 12 years of age and older reported current depression. Some mental health facilities try to help those with emotional disorders, however, it is not an illness that can be easily cured. Hopefully, scientists can make HIV easily treatable and less of an emotionally draining experience.

Protein HIV Used to Hijack Human Genes

Four years ago, it was estimated that 1.2 million people living in the United States had HIV. Add to that an average of 50,000 new cases per year, and the results are staggering. As the disease progresses into AIDS, the outlook is bleak. One estimate put the number of patients with the advanced stages of HIV at over 26,000. While it is true that therapy can give a person who is HIV-positive a promising future, these treatments are lifelong, and the effects of the infection still manifest themselves in different ways as a patient ages.

A Protein Called Tat

In order to better understand how this wily virus is able to get such a strong hold on its host, experts meticulously performed experiments and studies. The results have brought to light how HIV uses a tiny protein, called Tat, to shut down certain human genes. HIV (a retrovirus) does not have many of its own genes, which is why it searches out and eventually takes over a host cell’s genes. Here is where the small protein, Tat, comes in. Once the command center of the cell has been overtaken, Tat manipulates the genes in order to create a more appealing environment for the virus. Studies show that nearly 400 human genes bind with Tat—and then shut down. When the scientists compared the symptoms of an HIV infection to the genes that were shut down, the two were compatible.

What this tiny protein is able to accomplish is astounding. It does provide useful knowledge that could be applied to halt infection and keep the disease from progressing to AIDS. One European country has already begun working on a vaccine which inhibits Tat in order to try and stop HIV. The results have been promising. However, it will take some more time for anything concrete to be established. In the meantime, more information is being gathered and used to come up with even more effective ways to treat, prevent, and hopefully completely eradicate HIV in the future.

Correlation Between HIV Worsening and Gut Bacteria

Why do some HIV patients who experience great success from treatments still die younger than the average life expectancy? The reason may lie in the intestines. The bacteria that exists in the gut can increase inflammation that was originally related to the body’s fight against HIV.

Antiretroviral drugs can now help HIV patients to keep from having their immune system completely compromised, thus leading to a normal life span. But whether a person has HIV or not, inflammation can lead to serious health conditions such as heart problems, weight issues and mental deterioration.

HIV causes this sort of inflammation in individuals regardless of whether or not they receive treatment for the condition throughout their entire life. What lets HIV hang around in a patient even when treatment is successful? While this has been a subject of longtime research, the area of study is moving to the intestinal tract.

The idea for the research came from the concept that someone with HIV may have altered gut flora in some way as a result of the condition. The study involved considering samples from those who were infected with the disease but were not undergoing treatment, others who were receiving various forms of treatment and, finally, individuals without the disease as a control group.

What was the verdict? The flora found within the gut of an HIV patient is significantly different from that of a person who does not have the disease. More of the bacteria found in the intestines of the HIV patients was harmful bacteria that can create dangerous inflammation.

Researchers do not yet have a way to restore balance to the gut that has undergone such a drastic change, but more research is underway. Prospects are hopeful that treating this gut condition along with HIV will be the key to keeping HIV patients from suffering from a premature loss of life. It is also hoped that such advancements may allow for treatments that do not need to continue for someone’s entire life in order to hold the disease at bay.

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