Diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of bone fragility in people living with HIV: a position statement from the Swiss Association against Osteoporosis

Osteoporos Int. 2019 May;30(5):1125-1135. doi: 10.1007/s00198-018-4794-0. Epub 2019 Jan 2.


Life expectancy of people living with HIV (PLWH) is reaching similar length as in the general population. Accordingly, age-related comorbidities, including osteoporosis, are increasing. Fracture risk is higher and increases approximately 10 years earlier in PLWH. Classical risk factors of bone fragility are highly prevalent in PLWH but factors specific for HIV infection itself and the type of antiretroviral therapy (ART) (triple combination antiretroviral therapy) regimen (especially tenofovir and protease inhibitors) also contribute to bone loss. The majority of bone loss occurs during virus activity and at initiation of ART (immune reconstitution) and is associated with an increase of bone resorption (upregulation RANKL). Recent data indicate that calcium and vitamin D supplements as ART initiation lower BMD loss. The reduction of tenofovir plasma concentrations with tenofovir alafenamide attenuates BMD loss but it remains unknown whether it will contribute to reduce fracture risk. Hence, special considerations for the management of bone fragility in PLWH are warranted. Based on the current state of epidemiology and pathophysiology of osteoporosis in PLWH, we provide the consensus of the Swiss Association against Osteoporosis on best practice for diagnosis, prevention, and management of osteoporosis in this population. Periodic assessment of fracture risk is indicated in all HIV patients and general preventive measures should be implemented. All postmenopausal women, men above 50 years of age, and patients with other clinical risk for fragility fractures qualify for BMD measurement. An algorithm clarifies when treatment with bisphosphonates and review of ART regimen in favour of more bone-friendly options are indicated.

Keywords: Bone fragility; Diagnosis; HIV; Management; Osteoporosis; Prevention.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / adverse effects
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / therapeutic use
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / diagnosis
  • Osteoporosis / epidemiology
  • Osteoporosis / etiology*
  • Osteoporosis / therapy
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / epidemiology
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / physiopathology
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / prevention & control
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Switzerland / epidemiology


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents