Thanks to ART, many HIV-positive people now have a near-normal life expectancy. However, rates of heart, liver and kidney disease remain higher, compared with the general population. Research involving US military veterans also found that HIV-positive people had a significantly higher rate of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Investigators at the Royal Free Hospital, London, wanted to further understand the relationship between HIV infection and respiratory health in the modern ART era.

They therefore designed a study involving 197 HIV-positive people and 93 HIV-negative controls attending their hospital’s HIV and sexual health outpatient clinics in 2015. Participants completed a questionnaire focusing on their respiratory health (St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire – SGRQ) and a separate Medical Research Council (MRC) questionnaire on breathlessness. Participants also had a spirometry test to assess lung function.

The two groups had similar risk factors – in particular, smoking and drug-use. This is important, because people living with HIV are known to be more likely to be smokers or use recreational drugs than the general population, so when looking at a comparision, these factors need to be allowed for.

It was found that symptoms, especially breathlessness, were more common in the HIV-postive group, even though they were all doing well on ART. The reason for this is not clear. The researchers say that HIV clinicans need to pay more attention to respiratory problems in people living with HIV, and need to do more to encourage them to stop smoking.

The full article can be read here.