World AIDS Day : AIDS and Cancer

World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st of December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

This year’s theme is “Everybody counts”: W.H.O. Calls on everyone to advocate for access to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is known to infect a variety of cell targets, the principal one being the CD4 (T4) helper – inducer lymphocyte subset.

People with AIDS have a heightened cancer risk from immunosuppression. HAART (Highly Active Retroviral Therapy) has been available since 1996. It has reduced AIDS – related mortality, but there are few large scale studies on cancer trends.


Yes, people infected with HIV have a substantially higher risk of some types of cancer compared with uninfected people of same age. “HIV – Associated Cancer” – Kaposis Sarcoma, Aggressive B –cell Non – Hodgkin Lymphoma and Cervical Cancer.

A diagnosis of any of these cancers in someone infected with HIV confirms a diagnosis of AIDS.

Compared with the general population, People infected with HIV are currently about :

500 times more likely to be diagnosed with Kaposi Sarcoma

12 times more likely to be diagnosed with Non – Hodgkin Lymphoma

Women are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with Cervical Cancer

19 times more likely to be diagnosed with Anal Cancer

3 times as likely to be diagnosed with Liver Cancer

2 times as likely to be diagnosed with Lung Cancer

2 times as likely to be diagnosed with Oral cavity/Pharynx Cancer

8 times more likely to be diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma.

In addition to being linked to an increased risk of cancer, HIV infection is associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer. HIV – infected people with a range of cancer types are more likely to die of their cancer than HIV – uninfected people with these cancers.

Infection with HIV weakens the immune system and reduces the body’s ability to fight viral infections that may lead to cancer. The Viruses that are most likely to cause cancer in people with HIV are:

Kaposi Sarcoma – Associated Herpes Virus (KSHV)
Epstein – Barr Virus (EBV)
Human Papilloma Viruses (HPV)
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
Hepatitis C Virus(HCV)

The introduction of Highly Active Retroviral Therapy (HAART) also called Combination Antiretroviral Therapy (c ART) starting in the mid – 1990s greatly reduced the incidence of certain cancers in HIV – infected patients, especially Kaposi Sarcoma and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The likely explanation for this reduced incidence is that c ART lowers the amount of HIV circulating in the blood, thereby allowing partial restoration of immune system function to fight the viruses that cause many of these cancers.


Taking c ART as indicated lowers the risk of Kaposi Sarcoma and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and increase overall survival. The risk of lung, oral, and other cancers can be reduced by quitting smoking
HIV – Infected individuals should know their hepatitis status. Some drugs may be used for both HBV – suppressing therapy and c ART.

HIV – infected women have a higher risk of cervical cancer, so it is important that they are screened regularly for this disease with cervical screening.

KSHV is secreted in saliva, and transmission of this virus may occur through deep kissing, oral –anal sex. Reducing contact through these routes may reduce the chance of being infected with KSHV.

On December 1, 2017, all the above serve as a reminder for all of us on what we must do as individuals and as groups. Knocking HIV/AIDS related-defining malignancies on the head by knocking HIV on the head with all of the above preventive measures but at the same time showing support and understanding for those amongst us who live with HIV/AIDS. Lakeshore Cancer Center remains an advocate for all measures aimed at reducing world wide statistics in all illnesses.

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