Updated 25 February 2016

Action point


HIV medications can have some significant, long-term side effects and it's important that you discuss them with your doctor so that he or she can decide the best course of treatment for both your HIV disease and its side effects. 

Side effects of antiretroviral treatment:

  • Lipodystrophy – a problem in the way your body produces, uses, and stores fat. (Also called “fat redistribution”). These changes can include losing fat in the face and extremities, and gaining fat in the abdomen and back of the neck.
  • Insulin resistance – a condition that can lead to abnormalities in your blood sugar levels and, possibly, diabetes. Lab tests that check your sugar levels are usually the best indicators that you have insulin resistance.
  • Lipid abnormalities – increases in cholesterol or triglycerides. Like with insulin resistance, lab tests (cholesterol and triglycerides) are the best indicators of lipid abnormalities.
  • Decrease in bone density – a significant issue, especially for older adults with HIV. This can lead to an increase risk of injury and fractures.
  • Lactic acidosis –a buildup of lactate, a cellular waste product, in the body. This can cause problems ranging from muscle aches to liver failure. Alert your healthcare provider immediately.

Read more on how HIV/Aids is managed.