Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy-Associated Metabolic Syndrome and Lipodystrophy: Pathophysiology and Current Therapeutic Interventions

Sanelisiwe Nzuza, Sindiswa Zondi, Ranjendraparsad Hurchund, Peter MO Owira


The use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has extremely enhanced the clinical outcome of HIV disease with a decrease in mortality and morbidity. However, the inclusion of protease inhibitors (PIs) and nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (tNRTIs) has strongly been linked to the development of metabolic abnormalities and lipodystrophy. Lipodystrophy is defined by the loss of peripheral subcutaneous fat and central adiposity, mainly in the abdomen, breast and dorsocervical region. These disorders are reported to be cosmetically distressing and socially stigmatizing to many patients leading to decreased adherence to antiretroviral therapy. Metabolic syndrome precedes lipodystrophy leading to increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. With a shifted trajectory of HIV/AIDS morbidity from immunodeficiency and opportunistic infections to metabolic complications, clinical management of these patients has therefore become more complex. Currently there are no evidence-based standard guidelines for the management of HIV-associated lipodystrophy. Several pharmacological interventions such as using anti-diabetic, anti-dyslipidemic drugs or hormone replacement therapy have been tried to effectively improve metabolic syndrome and lipodystrophy but have been hampered by low efficacy, drug interactions, or unwanted side-effects. Non-pharmacological interventions including surgical manipulations, dietary and lifestyle modifications have also been tried with limited success. This review focuses on the proposed mechanisms involved in the development of metabolic syndrome and lipodystrophy, and highlights suggested potential therapeutic interventions to prevent lipodystrophy associated with HAART.

J Endocrinol Metab. 2017;7(4):103-116
doi: https://doi.org/10.14740/jem364w


HAART; Glucose intolerance; Insulin resistance and dyslipidemia

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