HIV and Diabetes – Double the Trouble for South Africa



Press Release

13 May 2014

Johannesburg, South Africa – HIV and Diabetes can pose grave challenges should both be present in one patient. Some studies suggest that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) may cause diabetes in some HIV positive people. It is reported that ART drugs may interfere with certain proteins that are involved in controlling the body’s absorption of blood sugar and this could lead to the development of diabetes. ART is associated with insulin resistance, which is commonly the cause of Type 2 diabetes.

“The capacity for treating cases of HIV and diabetes, as well as education and testing campaigns, especially in rural areas, needs to be stepped up if the war against these two illnesses is to be won,” says Dr Zaheer Bayat, a specialist endocrinologist and Chair of the Postgraduate Committee in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.


Dr. Bayat will appear as a speaker at the 4th Africa Health Congress taking place from 29 – 31 May 2014 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Johannesburg. He will feature at the Pan-African Diabetes Conference which accounts for one out of the 14 CPD-accredited conferences to be held during the three-day medical showcase. His topic is ‘HIV and diabetes – double the trouble’.


It is also likely that people who already have diabetes and then go on ART may have greater difficulties in controlling their diabetes. This could lead to an increase in the risk of heart disease and other diabetes-related complications. However, patients who have both HIV and diabetes can continue to do well for many years, as long as they have access to good care and keep the diabetes under control by following a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

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“There is a need for an increase in capacity for treating patients with HIV and diabetes. Very often, these patients are managed by nurses at rural clinics who need to be taught and empowered to deliver the best standard of care. Additionally, specialist centres need to be opened as far and as wide as possible in order to reach as many people as possible. Each academic hospital in Gauteng already has specialist diabetes and HIV clinics. However, their resources need to be increased in order to adequately accommodate and deal with the influx of patients centrally from district and rural facilities. This should be accompanied by the roll out of massive education and testing campaigns in order to create widespread awareness and reach an increased number of people”, says Dr Bayat.



Recent statistics from the International Diabetes Federation’s Atlas 5 show that as of 2012, a total of 1,98million people in South Africa had diabetes, with an estimated 2,55million people expected to have the illness by the year 2030.


As part of its efforts to improve diabetic treatment, the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA) recently updated its guidelines in order to promote best clinical practice in the management of diabetic patients. The guidelines were written to be understood and applied by all medical health professionals from those based at rural and district clinics to those in larger secondary and regional facilities. Support and action groups have also been formed with the idea of educating people about diabetes.

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With regards to HIV, 6,1million people in South Africa are living with HIV. The UNAIDS Global Report for 2013 reports that, in 2012, a total of 370 000 new infections were reported compared to 640 000 reported in 2001. There were 240 000 AIDS deaths in South Africa in 2012 compared to 200 000 in 2001.


Africa Health Exhibition & Congress 2014 is dubbed as the continent’s premier medical showcase. The event which is hosted by Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions, also features the latest medical innovations from international manufacturers. This year, over 5000 delegates are expected to attend the medical showcase.