HIV-associated Wasting may occur even when the virus is well controlled with antiretroviral therapy

If left untreated, HIV-associated Wasting can have serious consequences.
Learn more about starting a conversation with your healthcare provider below.

What are some of the symptoms of HIV-associated Wasting?

There are three key elements of HIV-associated Wasting:

Unintentional Weight Loss
HIV-associated Wasting causes people to lose weight without trying. Their clothes may fit more loosely, and friends, family, and coworkers may comment that they look different.
Loss of Lean Body Mass (LBM)
People living with HIV have changes in the way the body builds and breaks down LBM. Losing LBM leads to decreased energy and physical endurance.
Decreased Energy
Some people with HIV-associated Wasting get tired more quickly than they used to and find they can no longer do the things they love to do.

Who may be impacted by HIV-associated Wasting?

There isn’t just one type of person who experiences HIV-associated Wasting. This condition can affect a variety of people living with HIV, including:

  • HIV Long-Term Survivors
  • Those who have undetectable viral loads and normal CD4 counts
  • Those on antiretrovirals who have had an acute infection, such as pneumonia
  • Those who are newly diagnosed on antiretrovirals

It’s important to address HIV-associated Wasting as soon as possible— don’t wait to speak to your healthcare provider

HIV-associated Wasting can be associated with poor physical function, faster disease progression, and even an increased risk of death. Only a healthcare provider can diagnose HIV-associated Wasting.

Here are some potential conversation starters:

“My family has noticed changes in my weight and in the way I look. How can I know for sure if I have HIV-associated Wasting?”
“I have lost weight recently without trying. Could I have HIV-associated Wasting?”
“The changes in my weight negatively affect my health and how I feel. Do I have HIV-associated Wasting?”
“I have less energy than I used to have. Could this be a sign of HIV-associated Wasting?”

Click here for more conversation starters.

What can cause HIV-associated Wasting?

The exact cause of HIV-associated Wasting isn’t known, but experts believe it can be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Infections may cause changes in metabolism and increase the body’s caloric needs
  • The need for increased energy coupled with decreased nutrient intake may result in unintentional weight loss and energy loss
  • Due to their compromised immune systems, people living with HIV may be at a greater risk for infection. cART (combination antiretroviral therapy) is unable to restore the immune system or resolve the infection
  • Inflammation is a natural response to infection, stress, trauma, or cell injury in the body
  • Even when the virus is controlled, inflammation may continue to occur
  • Chronic inflammation can cause the breakdown of muscle tissue and decreased appetite, leading to weight loss and loss of lean body mass
Changes in metabolism
  • Metabolism is how the body turns food into energy
  • When metabolism becomes abnormal, the body may break down carbohydrates and proteins at an excessive rate
  • If this happens, energy is drawn from lean body mass, which means a loss of muscle, organ tissue, blood cells, bone, and water
  • GH is made up of several substances secreted by the pituitary gland that support growth of the body
  • GH helps maintain bone and skeletal muscle in the body
  • GH resistance is a failure to process and respond to GH that occurs naturally in the body
  • When the body resists or has difficulty using GH the body makes naturally, or if the body is not making enough GH, a loss of lean body mass may occur
  • The gastrointestinal system absorbs nutrients, electrolytes, and water into the body
  • Layers in the intestinal wall defend against toxins and microorganisms that may harm the body
  • HIV may disrupt this system, leading to changes in how nutrients are absorbed and the rate at which the body breaks down proteins
  • When the body doesn't absorb enough nutrients or breaks down proteins too quickly, loss of weight and lean body mass may occur
  • There are several causes of diarrhea, including
    • Bacterial and viral infections
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Intestinal disease
    • Food intolerances
    • Reactions to medications
  • Diarrhea may result in abdominal pain, dehydration, and weight loss
  • The testicles in males and, to a lesser extent, the ovaries in females produce the hormone testosterone
  • Testosterone helps with maintaining muscle mass, bone growth, adequate red blood cell levels, and sexual function
  • Low levels of testosterone may lead to a significant loss of lean body mass, as well as a reduction in the ability to exercise

Remember, a healthy diet and exercise are also important

View the short videos below to get some quick nutrition and exercise tips. These tips are not a substitute for your healthcare provider's expertise. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to develop the best nutrition and exercise plan for you.

Exercises To Try

Staying Healthy With HIV

Choose My Plate Information

Recommended Diet & Lifestyle Changes

7 Tips for Good Sleep

There are many options to help with one or more symptoms of HIV-associated Wasting.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your options and click below to learn more.

Learn More
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