Young men being treated for HIV are more likely to experience low bone mass than are other men their age, according to results from a research network supported by the National Institutes of Health. The findings indicate that physicians 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.
Earlier studies have shown 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 percent lower, and in the spine 2-4 percent lower, than for study participants without HIV.
The study was not designed to determine the cause of the bone loss and cannot rule out the possibility that low bone mass preceded the young men’s HIV infection. The researchers noted that all the young men had several risk factors for bone loss, such as tobacco and alcohol use, and low intake of calcium and vitamin D (needed to absorb calcium.)
The study was conducted by lead authors Kathleen Mulligan, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco; Grace Aldrovandi, M.D., of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the University of Southern California; Dr. Kapogiannis, and seven other researchers affiliated with the NICHD-supported Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN).
Their findings appear in Clinical Infectious Diseases.