If you’re HIV-positive and likely to develop diabetes, you may need to check your blood sugar levels before starting some 2nd line treatment ARVs.
The whole of April is used to focus on world health and the 7th of April, specifically, as World Health Day. The World Health Organisation is using this year’s World Health Day as an opportunity to put #diabetes in the spotlight and, surprisingly, HIV and diabetes share a connection.
Diabetes is a condition that causes high blood sugar and type 1 or type 2 diabetes are the versions of the illness developed. Diabetes can cause blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, and kidney disease. Some ARVs do affect your blood sugar levels too, but if you suspect that you may be diabetic, there is no reason to fear ARV treatment if you’re HIV-positive.
Certain types of ARVs (protease inhibitors) have been found to up blood sugar levels of those in treatment, and this could eventually lead to type 2 diabetes, but this type of ARV is not the first type of ARV you will receive if you begin treatment, so being tested for diabetes is not essential to begin your ARV treatment.
It’s only if the 1st line of treatment ARVs has not been successful in bringing down your viral load, that you may have to start 2nd line treatment (which can contain sugar level affecting ARVs), but even then, ARVs that affect your metabolic state (protease inhibitors) are not essential, and alternative ARVs can be prescribed, if you are at risk of developing diabetes, or already are diabetic.
Your health practitioner will then know what ARVs you should go on to not affect your blood sugar levels. Some other things can also increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, such as being overweight, being unfit and inactive; diabetes running in the family, being over 45, and an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, like overindulging in drugs and alcohol.
The test you would undergo to check for diabetes is called a fasting plasma glucose test (FPG). It requires that you not eat or drink anything that could affect your blood sugar levels for 8 hours before being tested (which just leaves water). It’s probably best to get checked in the morning before you’ve had your breakfast.
Diabetes is very manageable once you’re on treatment for it, and even more so if you adopt a healthy lifestyle, and this means getting exercise and eating little-to-no sugary, processed, fried and saucy foods. Instead, you should eat fresh fruits and vegetable, lean meats and healthy fats like olive oil, omega 3 and avocado.
Signs that you may be diabetic:
- Constant thirst
- Excessive sugar cravings
- Unusual weight gains or weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Cuts, bruises, and scratches that take long to heal
- Numbness or tingling in your arms, hands and feet
- Blurred vision
May April mark the beginning of a healthier way to be, on your calendar. Happy World Health Day!