Interventions for the treatment of decreased bone mineral density associated with HIV infection

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):CD005645. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005645.pub2.


Background: Decreased bone mineral density (BMD) occurs more commonly in patients with HIV than in the general population, making this group more susceptible to fragility fractures. However, bone loss is under-treated in patients with HIV.

Objectives: To assess the effects of interventions aimed at increasing bone mineral density in HIV-infected adults.

Search strategy: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILACS, The Cochrane Library, Meeting Abstracts, AIDSTRIALS, ACTIS, Current Controlled Trials, National Institutes of Health Clinical Trials Registry, and CenterWatch (search date July 2006).

Selection criteria: Randomised trials comparing any pharmacological or non-pharmacological therapy with placebo, no treatment, or an alternative therapy, with the goal of increasing bone mineral density in adult (age 18 years or over) patients with HIV.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently assessed trial eligibility and quality, and extracted data. Where data were incomplete or unclear, conflicts were resolved with discussion and/or trial authors were contacted for further details.

Main results: Three completed randomised-controlled studies examined the role of alendronate in patients with HIV and osteopenia or osteoporosis. When all three studies were combined, much heterogeneity was seen (p<0.0001), most likely due to different populations and interventions. A sensitivity analysis showed that in two studies without heterogeneity (p=0.11), alendronate, calcium and vitamin D improved lumbar BMD after one year when compared with calcium and vitamin D (weighted mean difference +2.65 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.80, 4.51 percent). However the alendronate group did not have less fragility fractures, relative risk (RR) 1.28 (95% CI 0.20, 8.21), or osteoporosis, RR 0.50 (95% CI 0.24, 1.01). Adverse events were not significantly different between groups, RR 1.28 (95% 0.20, 8.21). One randomised-controlled study done in patients with AIDS wasting found that after three months, testosterone enanthane improved lumbar BMD compared to placebo by +3.70 (95% CI 0.48, 6.92) percent, but progressive resistance training did not improve lumbar BMD (+0.40 95% CI -2.81, 3.61 percent). No group in this study had any adverse effects.

Authors' conclusions: The very limited data reviewed showed that bisphosphonate therapy andin those with AIDS wasting syndrome, testosteronemay be safe and possibly effective methods to improve bone mineral density in HIV patients. The available studies are small, of short duration, and not powered to detect changes in WHO categories and fracture rates. Larger studies using bisphosphonates are currently underway. The role of colecalciferol, androgen replacement in women, and growth hormone are also under investigation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alendronate / therapeutic use
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / drug therapy*
  • Calcium, Dietary / therapeutic use
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Wasting Syndrome / complications
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamin D
  • Alendronate