If you are a young man living with HIV, chances are your bones will betray you.
Young men being treated for HIV are more likely to experience low bone mass than are other men their age, according to a research network supported by the National Institutes of Health. The study found that doctors who care for these patients should monitor them regularly for signs of bone thinning, which could foretell a risk for fractures. The young men in the study did not have HIV at birth and had been diagnosed with HIV an average of two years earlier.
Older studies tell us that adults with HIV also have bone loss and increased risk for bone fractures, associated in part with the use of certain anti-HIV medications.
“The young men in the study had been taking anti-HIV medications for a comparatively short time, yet they still had lower bone mineral density than other men their age,” said co-author Bill G. Kapogiannis, M.D., of the Pediatric, Adolescent, and Maternal AIDS Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “These findings suggest a short-term impact of HIV therapy on bone at ages when people are still growing and building bone mass. This raises concern about the risk of fracture as they age.”
For the HIV-infected young men, on average, bone density in the hip was 5-8% lower, and in the spine 2-4% lower, than for study participants without HIV.
Some 250 teens and young men (14 to 25 years old) participated in the study. About 88% of the study participants identified themselves as African-American or Hispanic and all lived in urban areas. The participants underwent whole body scans to measure their bone density as well as the distribution of fat and lean muscle mass in certain regions of their bodies. Participants also answered questions about their medical history, and diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits.
The researchers calculated the density of bones in the body as a whole, as well as the spine and hipbones. These bones are more susceptible than other bones to bone loss, Dr. Mulligan explained. The researchers also assessed total body fat and amounts of fat in the arms, legs and trunk. The researchers found that the HIV-positive participants who had not yet begun treatment tended to have less body fat than either their counterparts on medication or the study’s HIV-negative participants.
To prevent future risk of bone fractures, men should exercise, stop smoking if they are a smoker, and consider vitamin D supplements. As always, talk with your doctor about any major health and medical condition. It’s your health.