HIV and CKD

Every morning, although I don’t have enough energy yet to create original posts, I peruse the Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease pages, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn for current information about CKD. I was surprised to see a post seeming to claim that Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can cause CKD. How had I never heard about this before?

As usual when I don’t know or understand something, I decided to investigate. My first stop was The National Institutes of Health at https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/26/99/hiv-and-kidney-disease.

  • “The kidneys are two fist-sized organs in the body that are located near the middle of the back on either side of the spine. The main job of the kidneys is to filter harmful waste and extra water from the blood. (We know that already.)
  • Injury or disease, including HIV infection, can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure and diabetes are the leading causes of kidney disease. In people with HIV, poorly controlled HIV infection and coinfection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) also increase the risk of kidney disease.
  • Some HIV medicines can affect the kidneys. Health care providers carefully consider the risk of kidney damage when recommending specific HIV medicines to include in an HIV regimen.
  • Kidney disease can advance to kidney failure. The treatments for kidney failure are dialysis and a kidney transplant. Both treatments are used to treat kidney failure in people with HIV.”

Well, I knew there was a possibility of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) leading to CKD, but HIV? What’s that? Oh, sorry, of course I’ll explain what HIV is. Actually, it’s not me doing the explaining, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html.

“HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

No effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART.  If people with HIV take ART as prescribed, their viral load (amount of HIV in their blood) can become undetectable. If it stays undetectable, they can live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.”

So, it’s not only HIV itself that can cause CKD, but also the drugs used to treat HIV.

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/hiv-and-chronic-kidney-disease-what-you-need-know  offers some ideas about how to avoid CKD if you have HIV:

“Many people with HIV do not get kidney disease or kidney failure. Talk to your health care provider about your chances of getting kidney disease. If you have HIV, you can lower your chances by:

  • Checking your blood pressure as often as your doctor recommends and taking steps to keep it under control
  • Taking all your HIV medications as prescribed
  • Asking your doctor about HIV drugs that have a lower risk of causing kidney damage
  • Controlling your blood sugar if you have diabetes
  • Taking medicines to control your blood glucose, cholesterol, anemia, and blood pressure if your doctor orders them for you
  • Asking your doctor to test you for kidney disease at least once each year if you:
    • Have a large amount of HIV in your blood
    • Have a low level of blood cells that help fight HIV (CD4 cells)
    • Are African American, Hispanic American, Asian, Pacific Islander, or American Indian
    • Have diabetes, high blood pressure, or hepatitis C”

It seems to me that avoiding CKD if you have HIV is almost the same as taking care of your CKD if you didn’t have HIV, except for the specific HIV information.

I now understand why it’s so important to take the hepatitis C vaccine. I turned to UpToDate at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-chronic-hepatitis-c-virus-infection-in-the-hiv-infected-patient for further information about hepatitis C and HIV.

“The consequences of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in HIV-infected patients are significant and include accelerated liver disease progression, high rates of end-stage liver disease, and shortened lifespan after hepatic decompensation, in particular among those with more advanced immunodeficiency …. In the era of potent antiretroviral therapy, end-stage liver disease remains a major cause of death among HIV-infected patients who are coinfected with HCV ….”

Remember that drugs leave your body via either your liver or kidneys. If your kidneys are already compromised by HIV or the medications used to treat your HIV, you need a high functioning liver. If your liver is compromised by hepatitis C, you need high functioning kidneys. I was unable to determine just what high functioning meant as far as your kidneys or liver, so if you find out, let us know.

Please be as careful as possible to avoid HIV, and if you do have it, pay special attention to being treated for it. I’d like it if you were one of the people who is “diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced [so that you] can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for this blog and thanks for this post. I was diagnosed with ESRD and Hep C 7 years ago. I have slowly moved up to stage 4 of CKD and after waiting two years for a treatment that didn’t have to clear through my kidneys, I have also been able to cure my CKD. I am 73 years old and began fencing as an exercise 4 years ago. I now compete regularly in tournaments.

    • Ron,
      Great work on the fencing, but am I reading this correctly? You cured your CKD via fencing? Or was it the Hep C? Either way, how did that work?

      • Sorry- that was a typo. How embarrassing! I haven’t cured my CKD. Fencing is helping me to manage my CKD. I was in ESRD for the first couple of years and now am pretty stable for the past 2 or 3 years at stage 4. I did cure my Hep C, but that was through a new drug called Zepatier. We had to wait on my Hep C treatment for a few years because any of the other treatments would have had to clear through my kidneys. Through it all I have so far managed to avoid dialysis and I was told that taking any of the Hep C cures that would clear through my kidneys would probably knock me into dialysis. I am half way through my 8th year since my initial diagnosis of ESRD and have still not yet gone on dialysis (in spite of my original nephralogist strongly pushing me to do so. I rejected that solution and got a new doctor who was willing to work with me. Sorry for the confusion on my original post. Lots of physical activity including fencing I believe has helped me to manage my condition.

      • Ah! This makes much more sense to me. Congrats on your successes.


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