HIV/AIDS and Diabetes

HIV treatments may raise your risk of developing diabetes. If you have diabetes, HIV treatments may also make it harder for you to control your blood glucose levels.

Diabetes Basics

After you eat, your body breaks food down into glucose and sends it into the blood. Insulin then helps move the glucose from the blood into your cells. When glucose enters your cells, it is either used as a fuel for energy right away or stored for later use. The level of glucose in your blood stays within a narrow range.

If you have diabetes, your body’s insulin doesn’t work well. This causes blood glucose to go higher than normal. If your blood glucose levels reach a certain level, you have diabetes.

Risk Factors for Diabetes

You are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are over age 45
  • have a family history of diabetes
  • are overweight
  • do not exercise regularly
  • have low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, or high blood pressure
  • are a member of certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians)
  • have had gestational diabetes, or have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth
  • have a history of prediabetes.

 You can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by losing excess weight and by being active most days of the week.

HIV Treatment and Blood Glucose Levels

Your doctor may want to screen you for diabetes before you begin treatment for HIV. Some HIV treatments and treatments for its complications may increase blood glucose and lead to diabetes. If you have one or more of the diabetes risk factors listed above, you are more likely to develop diabetes.

If you develop high blood glucose, your doctor may change your therapy to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.

If you are pregnant and treating HIV, you should be screened for gestational diabetes at 24 to 28 weeks’ gestation. Your doctor may want you screened earlier in your pregnancy if you are taking certain HIV medications, especially if you have another risk factor for diabetes.

If you have diabetes and start taking some HIV medications, you may need to check your blood glucose levels more often and your doctor may add more diabetes medications to help control your blood glucose levels.

People taking metformin plus certain HIV treatments may be at higher risk of lactic acidosis. If you have liver or kidney problems, or you binge drink or drink a lot of alcohol regularly, you are also at higher risk of lactic acidosis. Discuss your medications, alcohol habits, and general health with your doctor.

When You Start a New Medication

Talk to your pharmacist when you start a new medication. Ask about the side effects you may be at risk for, and about interactions your new medication may have with any you already take. Tell your pharmacist about any other medications you take: prescription, over-the-counter, and recreational drugs, as well as dietary supplements and alternative therapies.

  • Last Reviewed: June 7, 2013
  • Last Edited: December 10, 2013

Articles from Diabetes Forecast® magazine:

Diabetes Forecast