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Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

Normally blood glucose is distributed to your body’s tissues under the control of insulin. Glucose is then used as ‘fuel’ to meet the energy required by your body. In some cases, this process is disturbed and more insulin is needed for the tissues to take up glucose from the blood. The tissues are said to be ‘resistant’ to insulin, leading to a condition called insulin resistance; which is more common with increased abdominal fat, buffalo hump and in HIV-positive people on treatments.

Insulin resistance can lead to diabetes, a condition where blood glucose becomes quite high.

The incidence of type II, or mature onset, diabetes increases with age. As a result, as people with HIV live longer due to improved treatments, the incidence of type II diabetes amongst people with HIV has significantly risen.

People with HIV are at increased risk of type II diabetes. Factors associated with this risk are:

  • being on the protease inhibitor class of drugs for treatment of HIV
  • a higher prevalence of some of the risk factors for diabetes amongst people with HIV

It has not been demonstrated that HIV itself and its associated changes to the body directly result in increased risk of diabetes.

Preventing diabetes is important for people with HIV because it leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (for which people with HIV are already at increased risk) and in the longer term is associated with the development of a number of diabetes-related conditions.

It's important to have your risk assessed and your blood glucose monitored at your regular health check-ups.

A healthy diet and regular exercise will help prevent diabetes and also keep you well if you have been diagnosed with it.

Sometimes women with diabetes have decreased insulin sensitivity around the time of menstruation, which may lead to difficulty with glucose control; more intensive monitoring may be needed.

Women with diabetes may also be more vulnerable to yeast infections.

See also:

Kidney health


More information:

Your Body Blueprint for HIV and healthy living 



This page was published on 19 September, 2011

This page was reviewed on 23 December 2015