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Treating HIV-Associated Lymphoma

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People with HIV infections are at increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Although people with HIV tend to get more aggressive forms of lymphoma, such as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), primary CNS lymphoma, or Burkitt lymphoma, their outlook has improved a great deal in recent years. The use of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) to treat HIV has helped people better tolerate treatments such as chemotherapy (chemo) and immunotherapy.

A major problem in the past was that people with HIV infections tended to have low blood cell counts to begin with, which made it hard to treat them with full doses of chemo. This issue has been relieved somewhat by the use of HAART and the use of drugs to help the person’s body make new blood cells. Still, doctors give chemo cautiously and monitor blood counts closely.

Most experts believe that the prognosis (outlook) for a person with HIV-associated lymphoma relates at least as much to the HIV infection as to the lymphoma. Modern anti-HIV therapy can often control the immune deficiency in people with AIDS, so the outlook for people who develop lymphoma has improved.

The treatment of the lymphoma itself depends on the specific type of lymphoma. (For more on how specific types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are treated, see Treating B-cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas.)

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Practice Guidelines in Oncology: B-Cell Lymphomas. Version 6.2023. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/b-cell.pdf on December 2, 2023.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Cancer in People with HIV. Version 1.2024. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/hiv.pdf on December 2, 2023.

Last Revised: February 15, 2024

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