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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 2017, Article ID 6825493, 16 pages
Review Article

HIV as a Cause of Immune Activation and Immunosenescence

1Department of Immunology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
2South African Department of Science and Technology (DST)/National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA), Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa

Correspondence should be addressed to T. M. Rossouw;

Received 30 June 2017; Revised 9 October 2017; Accepted 11 October 2017; Published 25 October 2017

Academic Editor: Carmela R. Balistreri

Copyright © 2017 T. Sokoya et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Systemic immune activation has emerged as an essential component of the immunopathogenesis of HIV. It not only leads to faster disease progression, but also to accelerated decline of overall immune competence. HIV-associated immune activation is characterized by an increase in proinflammatory mediators, dysfunctional T regulatory cells, and a pattern of T-cell-senescent phenotypes similar to those seen in the elderly. These changes predispose HIV-infected persons to comorbid conditions that have been linked to immunosenescence and inflamm-ageing, such as atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, and cancer. In the antiretroviral treatment era, development of such non-AIDS-defining, age-related comorbidities is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Treatment strategies aimed at curtailing persistent immune activation and inflammation may help prevent the development of these conditions. At present, the most effective strategy appears to be early antiretroviral treatment initiation. No other treatment interventions have been found effective in large-scale clinical trials, and no adjunctive treatment is currently recommended in international HIV treatment guidelines. This article reviews the role of systemic immune activation in the immunopathogenesis of HIV infection, its causes and the clinical implications linked to immunosenescence in adults, and the therapeutic interventions that have been investigated.