Q and A

Question

Does HIV cause weight loss?

Can facial wasting and losing weight happen prior to starting treatment?

Can they simply be features of HIV (or stress) without being due to opportunistic infections?

Answer

Thank you for your questions.

General weight loss and facial wasting (fat loss) are very different things.

Before effective HIV treatment (ART), wasting and loss of appetite were very common among people living with HIV.

Some of the reasons that caused wasting were nausea, diarrhoea, poor absorption of food, fevers and loss of appetite. These symptoms are largely related to having a low CD4 count and not being on ART.

Information about body changes as a side effect are at these links for body fat changes (lipodystrophy) and fat loss (lipoatrophy).

Losing fat from the face is sometimes a feature of aging – ie it happens naturally as you get older. HIV doesn’t cause fat loss prior to treatment though, and is unlikley to cause it after treatment so long as you don’t use either d4T or AZT.

This answer was updated in January 2016 from a question first posted on 21 May 2008.

51 comments

  1. Josh Peasegood

    Hi, you can have sex with your wife at any time. As your viral load is below 200, there is no risk of transmission via sex. You can have sex without a condom and it is not possible for you to pass on HIV. This is explained by U=U: https://i-base.info/u-equals-u/

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