A deadly combination - HIV and diabetes mellitus: Where are we now?

Somasundram Pillay, Colleen Aldous, Fazleh Mahomed


Background. The combination of HIV infection and diabetes mellitus (DM) represents a collision of two chronic conditions. Both HIV and DM increase the risk of developing tuberculosis (TB). Health resources in developing countries are already under strain as a result of the TB epidemic and poor diabetic control would further worsen this epidemic. Optimal diabetic control provides one avenue of curbing the TB epidemic in developing countries.

Objectives. To establish if there is a difference in blood pressure, lipid and glycaemic control and complications between HIV-infected and uninfected diabetic patients; and to compare characteristics among HIV-infected diabetic patients between those with optimal and sub- optimal glycaemic control.

Methods. This was a retrospective chart review of all patients who visited the Edendale Hospital diabetic clinic, Pietermaritzburg, from 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2013.

Results. There were statistically significant differences noted in the following parameters between HIV-infected and uninfected diabetic patients: (i) mean HbA1c% (11.08% v. 10.14%, respectively); (ii) nephropathy defined by proteinuria (25.66% v. 15.43%); (iii) neuropathy (48.68% v. 42.10%); and (iv) Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (KDOQI) stage ≥2 chronic kidney disease (30.87% v. 41.67%). There were no significant differences noted in the percentage of patients achieving the following target parameters between the two cohorts: (i) blood pressure (42.11% v. 35.62%); (ii) total cholesterol (36.84% v. 34.67%); and (iii) triglycerides (42.76% v. 40.19%). Within the HIV-infected diabetic cohort 85.23% displayed suboptimal glycaemic control. A significant percentage of HIV-infected diabetic patients on antiretroviral (ARV) therapy (89.36%) had suboptimal glycaemic control. HIV-infected female diabetic patients showed a significant increased waist circumference when compared with their HIV-uninfected counterparts.

Conclusion. HIV-infected diabetic patients had significantly poorer blood sugar control and a higher incidence of neuropathy and nephropathy (when defined by overt proteinuria). There was a non-significant difference noted between the HIV-infected and uninfected diabetic patients with regard to blood pressure and lipid control. The majority of HIV-infected patients on ARVs failed to achieve target glycaemic control. Obesity remains a global challenge, as noted in both the HIV-infected and uninfected diabetic patients. 

Authors' affiliations

Somasundram Pillay, Department of Internal Medicine, Edendale Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Colleen Aldous, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Fazleh Mahomed, Department of Internal Medicine, Edendale Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

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Diabetes mellitus; HIV; Tuberculosis

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(4):378-383. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i4.9950

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-09-01
Date published: 2016-03-17

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