Set in the 1980s, 'It's A Sin' follows the emerging HIV/AIDS virus and its effect on a group of young friends.
What this drama illustrates so clearly is just how far treatments have advanced since the 1980s, both in HIV and in lymphoma.
What’s the connection? (Spoiler alert)
The lead character is told he has HIV and lymphoma. So is this realistic? Today a person with HIV is 10 to 20 times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma and about 8 times more likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma than a person without HIV. When the drama was set, those numbers would have been higher because it was before antiretroviral therapies (ART: the drugs that keep HIV under control) were introduced.
The reason for the link is that HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a type of virus called a ‘retrovirus’ which weakens your immune system by destroying a type of immune cell called a ‘CD4 + T cell’. Without these T cells, other cells in your immune system such as B cells, can’t work properly, which makes it harder for the body to fight infections. As lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects your lymphatic system, some types of lymphoma are linked to HIV.
Most people with HIV don’t develop lymphoma, and people with lymphoma do not have a higher risk of developing HIV than people without lymphoma.
With the advances in treatment of both HIV and lymphoma over the past forty years, outcomes for both have greatly improved and continue to improve all the time. For HIV, antiretroviral therapies (ART) are very effective at keeping HIV under control. Lymphoma treatments that have also developed over this period are as effective in people with HIV as they are in people without HIV.
20 February 2021