How to manage the risk of Diabetes when you are HIV-positive

Coping with HIV is challenging enough, without having to worry about other medical conditions. The risk of acquiring Diabetes must, however, be acknowledged.

How to manage the risk of diabetes when HIV positive.

HIV and Diabetes: minimising risk for people living with HIV

Coping with HIV is challenging enough for anyone, but the risk of acquiring Diabetes must not be forgotten. Any virus or bacteria is likely to affect your body’s immune system. This affects how your body copes with other health threats, either from the same condition or other trauma.

While it’s possible to find a lot of information online about improving your health, remember that no two people are the same. This makes it worth your while to learn more about your own body: never pass up the chance to ask your doctor questions. You may learn fascinating things about why you’ve been given specific medicines, and why those may change over time.

With regards to cardiovascular health, HIV-related conditions usually receive more attention. Even though this is the norm, we’re here to unpack why your risk of developing Diabetes is higher if you’re HIV-positive. Tailoring lifestyle changes and nutritional plans with the help of a medical expert is beneficial in many ways. There are a number of factors that may influence your plan: viral load; overall immune strength; pre-Diabetic symptoms; cholesterol; blood pressure and others like resource access and availability of funds.

Managing the risk of Diabetes when living with HIV: a Dietician’s advice.

Clinical Dieticians are qualified to create individualised plans for each and every patient. Usually, to effectively manage the risk of Diabetes, reduced energy intake and increased physical activity work hand in hand. Because everyone’s bodies react differently, it takes the insight of a qualified professional to help manage cravings, changes in appetite, and food group ratios, effectively enough to maintain a healthy immune system and reach other health goals.

Dieticians, however, can be costly and difficult for many people to access. Moreover, meal plans can drive families into debt if not carefully managed and tailored to the exact needs and capacity of each patient. In lieu of the ability to consult with a professional Clinical Dietician, HIV-positive people can consult with doctors, clinic staff and other medical practitioners. Online resources can be helpful but it’s important to choose credible sites like this one from AllLife, to make sure that you’re finding relevant, useful and accurate information about your experience of HIV and/or Diabetes.

Can ARVs cause Diabetes?

HIV and Diabetes research suggests:

  • Diabetes risk factors include (but are not limited to): family history, weight management and physical activity.
  • HIV-positive patients are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, than HIV-negative people.
  • HIV-positive people benefit from testing their blood glucose levels before beginning ARVs, and monitoring this with their medical practitioners.
  • ARVs affect everyone’s bodies differently, including their blood glucose levels.
  • Some ARVs increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
  • ARVs and Diabetes medicines can react with each other, so it’s important to always keep doctors, nurses and clinic teams informed of medical developments.
  • ARVs seem to affect glucose metabolism and body fat.

Understand more about HIV and how to live a happy, healthy life when you are HIV-positive. 

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Which ARVs increase risk of or cause Diabetes?

In a Diabetes Hub article on special care for HIV-positive patients with Diabetes ,Todd T. Brown, MD, PhD cautioned about certain drugs in HIV-positive patients. According to Dr. Brown, the HIV drug dolutegravir increases metformin concentrations by about 80% (Dotinga, 2020).


Dotinga, R, 2020. Special Care Advised For HIV-Infected Patients With Diabetes. [online] Diabetes Hub. Available at: [Accessed 25 June 2020].

Duncan, AD, Goff, LM, Peters, BS and Rivas, C.2019. Individual advice from dietitian helps people with HIV manage diabetes risk. Medical brief. 3 April. Available at: [Accessed 29 July 2019].

US Department of Health and Human Services. 2018. Side Effects of HIV Medicines. AIDSinfo. 26 November. Available at: [Accessed 29 July 2019].

We all have questions.

Below are some of the answers to the most common questions around HIV. 

What is usually the first sign of HIV?

After becoming infected with HIV, most patients only experience moderate flu-like symptoms. Typically, the illness is sudden in onset and is characterised by fever, swelling of the lymph glands, a measles-like rash all over the body, ulcers in the mouth and sometimes on the genitalia.

What are the 4 stages of HIV?

  • Stage 1: Infection – Exposure to infected bodily fluids.
  • Stage 2: Asymptomatic – HIV quickly spreads and the patient becomes seropositive for HIV antibodies.
  • Stage 3: Symptomatic – The immune system is now engaged in a constant battle with the rapidly replicating virus.
  • Stage 4: AIDS – At this stage, the patient’s CD4+ count is 200 cells per mm3 or less.

How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test?

No test can detect HIV immediately after infection. The time between initial infection and a detectable viral load is called the window period. It can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to after exposure, to detect whether you are HIV-positive or not, depending on which testing method is used.

How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV?

Following initial infection, there is a period of intense, unchecked viral replication that occurs. It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks after infection and can last about 1 to 2 weeks, after which there tends to be a slight recovery, and the infected individual is considered to be seropositive for HIV antibodies.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted from one person to another through the exchange of body fluids. The main method of transmission in South Africa is through unprotected sexual activity.

Does HIV test affect life insurance?

Being HIV-positive can affect standard life insurance policies, particularly if your status changes from HIV-negative to HIV-positive within a particular age range. That’s why AllLife covers all lives. Your HIV status doesn’t prevent you from getting cover with us.

Can HIV-positive women have children?

Yes, HIV-positive women can enjoy healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy HIV-negative babies, through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme. PMTCT has been highly effective in reducing the HIV transmission risk to under 1%.

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