HIV and autoimmunity

Gisele Zandman-Goddard, Yehuda Shoenfeld*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

335 Scopus citations


The association of immune dysfunction in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and AIDS and the development of autoimmune diseases is intriguing. Yet, the spectrum of reported autoimmune phenomena in these patients is increasing. An infectious trigger for immune activation is one of the postulated mechanisms and derives from molecular mimicry. During frank loss of immunocompetence, autoimmune diseases that are predominantly T cell subtype CD8 driven predominate. There is evidence for B cell stimulation and many autoantibodies are reported in HIV patients. We propose a staging of autoimmune manifestations related to HIV/AIDS manifestations and the total CD4 count and viral load that may be beneficial in identifying the type of autoimmune disease and establishing the proper therapy. In stage I there is the acute HIV infection, and the immune system is intact. In this stage, autoimmune diseases may develop. Stage II describes the quiescent period without overt manifestations of AIDS. However, there is a declining CD4 count indicative of some immunosuppression. Autoimmune diseases are not found. During stage III there is immunosuppression with a low CD4 count and the development of AIDS. CD8 T cells predominant and diseases such as psoriasis and diffuse immune lymphocytic syndrome (similar to Sjogren's syndrome) may present or even be the initial manifestation of AIDS. Also during this stage no autoimmune diseases are found. In stage IV there is restoration of immune competence following highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). In this setting, there is a resurgence of autoimmune diseases. The frequency of reported rheumatological syndromes in HIV-infected patients ranges from 1 to 60%. The list of reported autoimmune diseases in HIV/AIDS include systemic lupus erythematosus, anti-phospholipid syndrome, vasculitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, polymyosits, Graves' disease, and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Also, there is an array of autoantibodies reported in HIV/AIDS patients which include anti-cardiolipin, anti-β2 GPI, anti-DNA, anti-small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNP), anti-thyroglobulin, anti-thyroid peroxidase, anti-myosin, and anti-erythropoietin antibodies. The association of autoantibodies in HIV-infected patients to clinical autoimmune disease is yet to be established. With the upsurge of HAART, the incidence of autoimmune diseases in HIV-infected patients is increasing. In this review, we describe the various autoimmune diseases that develop in HIV/AIDS patients through possible mechanisms related to immune activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-337
Number of pages9
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2002


  • AIDS
  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoimmunity
  • HIV
  • Immune restoration


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