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This Month in HIV: A Podcast of Critical News in HIV

This Month in HIV: 2009 Update on Body Shape Changes and HIV/AIDS

A Conversation With Dr. Donald Kotler and Patient Activist Nelson Vergel

April 2009

This podcast is a part of the series This Month in HIV. To subscribe to this series, click here.

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Nelson Vergel, BSChE, M.B.A., 26-Year Survivor of HIV and Longtime HIV/AIDS Activist
Dr. Donald Kotler is chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.
Body shape changes are some of the most frustrating complications of HIV and HIV medications. Whether it's the loss of cheeks or the sudden swollen midsection, people with HIV have been mostly dealing silently with these issues since there are few treatments available. In This Month in HIV, HIV activist and long-time survivor Nelson Vergel leads a discussion with Donald Kotler, M.D., who is an expert on metabolic complications and HIV. They will fill us in on some of the latest updates on this issue.

Nelson Vergel: Hi, Bonnie. Thanks for having me here. And thanks to Dr. Kotler for joining us.

Dr. Kotler, I'd like to start with some basic questions, if you don't mind, to cover the basics about body changes and HIV.

In your opinion, how widespread are body changes in the HIV-positive population? Is there any way that somebody who was recently diagnosed with HIV can know how probable it is that he or she will experience body changes?

Dr. Donald Kotler: That's two questions.

The first one: How frequent are the body shape changes?

The answer is that it depends which shape you're talking about. Some people gain body fat, and others lose body fat. Of the people who gain body fat, for example in the belly, or behind the neck, it's about one-third of patients who have that kind of problem.

In terms of losing body fat and getting really skinny legs, or the skinny face that people notice that's so stigmatizing, in the old days it was almost everybody, and currently it's not many people.


With the change in the antivirals, specifically the stopping of the use of stavudine [d4T, Zerit] and limiting the use of zidovudine [AZT, Retrovir; this drug is also included in Combivir and Trizivir], many fewer people get really thin from lipodystrophy.

Now, the second question: Is there any way that somebody recently diagnosed can avoid these issues?

I gave part of the answer. You can avoid the loss of fat by the choice of medications. Very few people in the United States are taking the medications that will cause body fat loss.

A way of preventing body fat gain was shown about a year and a half ago at the international meeting in Sydney, Australia. Limiting the amount of weight that's gained as people start antivirals will limit the amount of fat that ends up in the belly.1

Nelson Vergel: How do we actually limit the amount of weight that people gain when they start HIV medications?

Dr. Donald Kotler: That's a good question. In the study, which was from Brazil, they use what's called the NCEP [National Cholesterol Education Program] diet. [NCEP was launched in November 1985 by the National Institutes of Health to help reduce illness and death from coronary heart disease in the United States.] It's a healthy diet for somebody with heart disease; it asks people to moderate carbohydrates, decrease fat and consume more fiber. So you tend not to eat things that are so rich and so dense in calories.

It's a standard type of diet for people with heart disease. At least in the study that was presented, people who started their first regimen, plus the diet, gained much less weight -- their cholesterol didn't go up nearly as much and their belly didn't get nearly as big as people who were allowed to eat whatever they wanted.

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Copyright © 2009 Body Health Resources Corporation. All rights reserved. Podcast disclaimer.

This podcast is a part of the series This Month in HIV. To subscribe to this series, click here.


This article was provided by TheBody. It is a part of the publication This Month in HIV.
See Also's Lipoatrophy Resource Center
Ask a Question About Facial Wasting at The Body's "Ask the Experts" Forums
More on Facial Wasting/Lipoatrophy


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