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Diabetes and HIV

what is hiv

Diabetes is a common condition but some HIV medication has also been linked to it.

Can HIV drugs cause diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be caused by lifestyle and is more common when people are overweight and do not exercise enough. It can also develop in people with HIV - links have been found between Type 2 diabetes and some antiretroviral treatments. These include:

  • AZT
  • Indinavir
  • the little used d4T
  • full doses of the booster drug Ritonavir.

Diabetes is also linked to ageing, so as people living with HIV become older this adds a further risk factor for diabetes.

Most people on antiretroviral treatment will have routine blood glucose tests to check for signs of diabetes.


The following symptoms could be a sign of high blood sugar:

  • a constant thirst
  • blurred vision
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • a need to urinate frequently - especially at night.

Other early signs of diabetes include:

  • erection problems
  • genital itching or thrush.

What is diabetes?

If you have diabetes you have too much glucose in the blood (blood sugar) because your body cannot use it properly. When you eat, glucose is made from your food, which is then used by your cells to make energy. The glucose in your body is regulated by insulin, which is a hormone made by your pancreas - it helps the glucose get into your cells so they can use it.

There are two types of diabetes. If you have Type 1, your pancreas doesn’t make any insulin, this is usually diagnosed in childhood.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when you don’t produce enough insulin (insulin deficiency) or your body cannot use the insulin you do make (insulin resistance) so the glucose stops being regulated. Eventually the levels of glucose in the blood become too high, resulting in what is known as high blood sugar.


How is diabetes treated?

The good news is that Type 2 diabetes can be managed initially by lifestyle changes including stopping smoking, taking more exerciseimproving your diet and losing weight if necessary.

These measures will often keep your blood glucose levels under control, although it will probably need to be managed with medication at some point.


More about diabetes:


Next: Heart problems and HIV ››

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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 12/2/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 12/2/2018

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health promotion

More information:

Diabetes Factsheet, NAM aidsmap (2012)

Diabetes, NAM aidsmap (2011)

Sweet sorrow: diabetes and HIV, NAM aidsmap (2009)

What is diabetes?, Diabetes UK (2009)

Diabetes symptoms, Diabetes UK (2009)

Type 2 diabetes - Overview, NHS Choices, June 2014

Type 2 diabetes - Causes, NHS Choices, June 2014

Type 2 diabetes - Symptoms, NHS Choices, June 2014

Type 2 diabetes - Treatment, NHS Choices, June 2014

Living with type 2 diabetes - looking after yourself, NHS Choices, June 2014

Type 1 diabetes - Introduction, NHS Choices, August 2014

Sex and diabetes, Diabetes UK, 2015