Diabetes and HIV: living with two chronic diseases

Diabetes and HIV: living with two chronic diseases

When you have already assimilated that you live with HIV and that you will have to take lifelong treatment to stay healthy, they give you the news that you have diabetes. What to do now?

As you know, antiretroviral treatment, which began to be used in 1996, has saved millions of lives by controlling the progress of HIV in the body, so currently, the global regulation is to start this treatment as soon as a person is diagnosed with the virus.

However, despite the fact that antiretroviral drugs keep HIV replication at bay, the action of this virus on the body is still not fully understood, but what is known is that chronic inflammation plays a crucial role in infection. This condition is one of the main causes of diabetes being more frequent among people with HIV than in the general population.

How much higher is the risk of diabetes?

People living with HIV have a higher risk of developing diabetes than other people with similar characteristics (age, general health condition), but who do not have HIV. This has been extensively studied and proven over the years; what has not yet been unified is exactly how much more risk of diabetes those living with the virus have.

As compiled by the Health line news website, the most recent studies on the topic found varying ratios between 1.39 and 4 times higher risk of HIV in people with HIV than without.

In general, it has been estimated that diabetes is more frequent in number, but also that it occurs at younger ages among people who have HIV compared to those who do not have it. Another theory to explain these data is the role of treatment antiretroviral. Some of the drugs can negatively affect the way the body processes sugar, which, in turn, can lead someone to have insulin resistance.

Added to this are the genetic and individual factors of people with HIV, such as family history of diabetes, overweight, older age, the presence of hepatitis C and lipodystrophy, that is, changes in fat distribution body experience experienced by some people with HIV.

How should my treatment be?

As explained by Health line (a specialized health media whose content is supervised by doctors), diabetes treatment does not require major adjustments when prescribed to a person with HIV.

However, response to diabetes treatment may be less in people with the virus. Sometimes it is necessary to substitute some of the antiretroviral drugs to reduce drug interaction.

It is recommended that people with HIV measure their blood sugar before starting antiretroviral treatment, in order to detect variations that may occur as a result of these drugs, and to be able to detect diabetes in a timely manner.

But not all is lost. As in all cases, making some changes in habits can help you keep diabetes under control:

• Eat a balanced diet. Limit your consumption of refined sugar, salt and fats.

• Make water your main source of hydration, thus avoiding refined sugar.

• Exercise for 30 minutes each day, do it every day of the week, if possible.

• Maintain a moderate weight.

• Check your blood sugar levels before starting and when you have already started taking antiretroviral treatment.

• Do not smoke.

Of course, the health personnel who treat you for HIV know how to treat your diabetes, so you can raise any questions you have with them.

And if you still don’t know if you live with HIV or if you already have a diagnosis but haven’t started treatment, at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we can help you. Come to our closest office to you, we are in 11 countries in the region.