Clinical review 153: Lipodystrophy in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Nov;87(11):4845-56. doi: 10.1210/jc.2002-020794.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a major global health problem. Recently, combination therapy including HIV-1 protease inhibitors (PIs) has dramatically improved the long-term survival of HIV-infected patients. However, such therapy is associated with a lipodystrophy syndrome characterized by selective loss of sc fat from the face and extremities and, in some patients, accumulation of fat around the neck, dorsocervical region, abdomen, and trunk. Lipodystrophy in HIV-infected patients (LDHIV) is associated with insulin resistance and its metabolic complications such as impaired glucose tolerance, diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia and low serum high density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. PIs appear to be the strongest link to LDHIV; however, fat loss has been reported in some patients taking non-PI antiretroviral drugs. Other factors, such as duration of HIV infection, age, and gender, may also contribute to the risk of development of LDHIV. The molecular basis of LDHIV remains unknown. There is no specific therapy for LDHIV. Avoiding weight gain by reducing energy intake and increasing physical activity may be beneficial in reducing fat accumulation as well as improving metabolic complications. Antihyperglycemic drugs may be used to treat diabetes. Management of dyslipidemia may require lipid-lowering drugs; however, the safety and efficacy of such intervention require further studies. Substitution of PIs with other antiretroviral drugs can mitigate dyslipidemia and glucose intolerance, but whether reversal of lipodystrophy occurs remains unknown. Future research is needed to discover the biochemical and molecular markers of lipodystrophy in HIV patients and develop PIs or other antiretroviral agents that are free of metabolic toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-HIV Agents / adverse effects
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / adverse effects
  • Body Composition
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Glucose Intolerance / complications
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipodystrophy / chemically induced
  • Lipodystrophy / complications*
  • Lipodystrophy / epidemiology
  • Lipodystrophy / therapy
  • Nutritional Status
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-HIV Agents