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Cancer is the Leading Cause of Death in HIV-Positive Individuals

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Annual report from the American Cancer Society says HIV is an underlying factor in a handful of cancer diagnoses.

In those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), there is a 10-fold higher cancer risk than in the general population, according to the annual Cancer Facts and Figures report from the American Cancer Society published today.

Cancer rates in HIV-positive individuals have decreased since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Since HAART became available in 1996, there has been a 70% drop in Kaposi sarcoma and a 50% drop in non-Hodgkin lymphoma in those with HIV.

Because HIV compromises the immune system, it increases the risk of infections like human papillomavirus (HPV) that can lead to cervical cancer. Ten cancers are associated with HIV. These include non-Hodgkin lymphoma, cervical, liver, anal, and lung cancers.

LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) individuals experience higher rates of HIV. For example, in 2019, 70% of HIV infections were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact.

The LGBTQ+ community experiences higher rates of health disparities overall. This is due to minority stress which the report defines as “the discrepancy and conflict that arises between the values of a historically minoritized group and the dominant culture or society.”

These stressors lead to higher rates of smoking, excess body weight, and alcohol consumption, which are all more prevalent in LBGTQ+ people than in heterosexuals. This can lead to lung cancer

Access to care is another barrier for the community. There are still nine states where it is legal for healthcare professionals to refuse to care for LGBTQ+ patients: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The patients in these states account for an estimated 20% of the entire LGBTQ+ population.

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