People living with HIV may be more at risk of diabetes

02 February 2017

HIV as a risk factor for diabetes has long been controversial, but new evidence shows that people living with HIV have increased diabetes prevalence compared to the general population.

A man pricking his finger using a lancet

People living with HIV in the USA have a 3.6% higher prevalence of diabetes compared to the general population, with evidence suggesting that diabetes emerges at younger ages, irrespective of obesity, among people living with HIV.

The link between HIV and diabetes has often been debated, but evidence from a new study shows an increased prevalence compared to the general population, even after being adjusted for factors such as age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, poverty level, obesity and hepatitis C infection.

Data was collected from 8,610 people living with HIV, surveyed as part of the USA Medical Monitoring Project (MMP), a surveillance system that produces nationally representative estimates of behavioural and clinical characteristics of people in HIV care.

It found that one in ten (10.3%) of people living with HIV in the USA between 2009 and 2010 had diabetes. Of this group, just 3.9% had type 1 diabetes, while 52.3% had type 2 diabetes and 43.9% had unspecified diabetes.

Diabetes among this group was independently associated with age, the amount of time living with HIV and CD4 count.

As HIV treatment has improved and HIV-positive people live longer, understanding the risk factors of non-AIDS related morbidities are becoming increasingly important. The research, published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, is the first nationally representative estimate of diabetes prevalence among people living with HIV in the USA.

While the authors state that a direct causal relationship between HIV and diabetes cannot be established, they conclude that the large burden of diabetes among people living with HIV in the country necessitates more research.

This could determine whether diabetes screening guidelines should be modified to include HIV as a risk-factor for diabetes and identify how to better manage diabetes among people living with HIV.

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Written by Caitlin Mahon

Content Specialist - HIV & Sexual Health