Postmenopausal women who are HIV-positive face a high risk of bone fractures as a result of low bone mineral density and accelerated bone loss, according to a new study to be published in February’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
During this longitudinal study, researchers examined the confounding question of why women with HIV show less bone mineral density and hypothesized that such bone loss may be related to the effects of not only the HIV infection but HIV treatments on the skeleton.
Using dual x-ray absorptionmetry (DXA), the researchers assessed the bone health of approximately 92 HIV-positive and HIV-negative postmenopausal women by measuring their body composition and their bone mineral density in the lumbar spine (lower back), femoral neck and hip.
According to the study, bone mineral density at both the spine and hip was lower in the HIV-positive postmenopausal women than in the HIV-negative postmenopausal women.
With their hypothesis seemingly supported by these findings, the researchers noted that female HIV patients may be more vulnerable to low bone mineral density and fractures due to antiretroviral therapy (ART) that treats HIV with different antiretroviral drugs, the cells producing more proteins to aid in communication with other cells, and decreases in estrogen.
For some more context, bone is comprised of complex living tissue that is constantly laid down and removed by the body. Peak bone mass is typically reached around the age of 30, after which more bone is lost than replaced. During menopause, estrogen levels drop, possibly accelerating bone loss and contributing to postmenopausal osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones that can leave them susceptible to fracture.
Considering the study's findings, HIV-positive postmenopausal women should take extra precaution to preserve bone mineral density and prevent falls to avoid fractures.