What are the Long-Term Effects of HIV?

The longer human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is present, the more likely the infected person will suffer a number of health difficulties. HIV makes the body more susceptible to other conditions that may be life-threatening. Some of the problems with long-term HIV infection can also come from side effects of anti-HIV drugs.

A long-term HIV infection can weaken a person to the point where he can't fight off other infections. (Image: Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Body Fat

One long-term effect of having an HIV infection involves unusual fatty deposits in the body. Some HIV-sufferers experience odd changes in how their bodies process sugars and fat. Fat may accumulate in strange areas of the body or be lost in other areas. Called either lipoatrophy or lipoaccumulation, the loss or gain of body fat may change a patient’s appearance by adding stomach fat, making fatty lumps on the body or increasing fat in the neck, shoulders or face. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, fat may also be lost in the legs, face or arms.

Heart Disease

Long-term HIV-sufferers may develop heart disease. The changes in processing fats and sugars may cause fatty accumulation in blood vessels, which causes high blood pressure and heart disease. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states it is unsure whether the changes in fatty deposits resulting in heart disease are caused by the HIV infection or by the medications used to treat HIV.

Opportunistic Infections

The longer a person carries the HIV infection, the more likely he will be exposed to another infection that will take advantage of his compromised immune system. Conditions such as cancer or pneumonia may find their way into the body in its weakened condition.

Each bout with infection and treatment in a hospital takes a toll on the person, both mentally and physically. The body tends to become weaker and less able to fight off infection at the same time the person’s outlook and will to live lessens. Certified social worker Michael Shernoff states in "The Body" that the possibility of not being able to survive one of these bouts with an opportunistic infection means the person has less positive energy and less commitment to survive.

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