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HIV wasting syndrome

A person with HIV wasting syndrome loses at least 10 percent of her body weight and has at least 30 days of either diarrhea or weakness and fever. A person with HIV-associated wasting is considered to have AIDS. Severe loss of weight and muscle, or lean body mass, leads to muscle weakness and organ failure. Wasting is caused by many things:

  • Not wanting to eat (poor appetite)
  • Side effects from drugs, like a change in your sense of taste
  • No energy to shop and prepare food
  • Sore mouth
  • Problems swallowing
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Problems absorbing nutrients
  • Feeling full from only a small amount of food because your stomach doesn't empty right
  • Depression

Here are some tips to help you keep weight on and treat weight loss:

  • Try to prevent or treat opportunistic infections that interfere with eating.
  • Talk to your doctor about medicines to increase your appetite and to treat nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Eat healthy foods. To find out what foods are good for you, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist. There are nutritionists who specialize in HIV/AIDS.
  • Ask your doctor about keeping fit and about resistance training, which involves lifting small weights to build muscle.

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More information on HIV wasting syndrome

Explore other publications and websites

  • Wasting Syndrome (Copyright © AIDSInfoNet) - This publication explains what AIDS wasting is, what causes it, and how it is treated. This publication also links to information on exercise for people HIV/AIDS, which can help build lean body mass.

Content last updated: July 01, 2011.

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