Meth use, Intimate Partner Violence Weaken Immune Function in HIV-Positive Men

A study by the University of California, Los Angeles on HIV-positive Black and Latino men who have sex with other men (MSM) showed that the use of methamphetamine and intimate violence with partners increased the activity of certain genes known to control antiviral and inflammatory functions. A rise in their activities weakens the immune system and increases the probability of these patients developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and other disorders.

The researchers measured the effect of methamphetamine and partner violence on these genes using “Social genomics.” Social genomics is a field of research that studies the effect of social factors on genetic activity. Using this, researchers have been able to show that violence, substance abuse, and discrimination are all linked to HIV.

They were able to reach this conclusion by checking if the use of methamphetamine, violence among partners, and unsuppressed viral load could cause a notable increase in inflammation and type I interferon. Increased inflammation and amount of type I interferon often lead to overworking of CD4 and CD8 immune cells, eventually resulting in more replication of viruses.

The study involved 147 HIV–positive Black and Latino men recruited from MSM and Substance Cohort at UCLA Linking Infections Noting Effects (mSTUDY). Data included both HIV-positive and HIV-negative men in Los Angeles County, an area of high priority for HIV prevention research.

Results indicate that substance abuse and social factors play a vital role in the immune function of people living with HIV. Further and extended research is, however, required to determine the full extent of the contribution of these factors in the link between stress and HIV disease.

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