HIV-positive people getting heavier

From San Diego, at a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America

Exaggerated weight loss—wasting—used to be a hallmark of HIV infection. With the success of new medicines, however, that appears to be changing. In two hospitals, at least, people with HIV are becoming overweight or obese at the same rate as the U.S. population in general.

A survey of 663 HIV-infected patients at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., found that 63 percent qualified as overweight or obese. When diagnosed with HIV, 46 percent of the study patients were obese or overweight, and 72 percent of all the patients subsequently gained weight.

None of the patients met the strictest definition of wasting. Only 20 patients, or 3 percent, met looser criteria for wasting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says that 66 percent of the general population is obese or overweight. The CDC defines obesity as having a body-mass index (BMI) greater than 30; people with a BMI between 25 and 30 are classed as overweight.

“I think this is an indication that HIV medications are working, that HIV is now a chronic illness like high blood pressure,” says Nancy Crum-Cianflone, the physician who led the study. “Wasting has become extraordinarily rare, at least in America.”

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