HIV makes osteoporotic bone fractures more likely

Americans with HIV, who are at special risk for osteoporosis, are at least twice as likely as those without the virus in their system to suffer from bone fractures, according to new research.

A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that HIV-positive adults have between two and four times the risk of broken bones that non-infected individuals have.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, came to this conclusion after monitoring the bone health of more than 5,800 participants over six years.

The team found that certain factors indicated a higher risk for HIV-related fracture. These included diabetes, hepatitis C, drug abuse and advanced age.

Researchers also determined that an HIV-positive individual's levels of CD4 cells, a group of white blood cells that fight infections, can determine their five-year risk for fracture. Co-author Benjamin Young said that this was the first such association made between immune cell counts and fracture risk.

"We believe our data support the need to develop guidelines that address screening for and correcting reversible causes of low bone mineral density and fall risk," Young noted. He added that "These activities should be incorporated into the routine care of HIV-infected patients."

Previous studies have associated HIV infection with the increased likelihood of osteoporosis. A 2008 report in the Spanish journal Enfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiologia Clinica stated that there are a number of possible explanations for the connection between the immunodeficiency virus and the chronic bone disease.

Investiagator Jose Manuel Olmos suggested that these may include vitamin D deficiency, inadequate physical exercise, malnourishment and the creation of cytokines that absorb bone minerals.

Data released at the 2004 International AIDS Conference suggested that about a third of middle-aged individuals with HIV have osteopenia, a condition of low bone mineral density that is a precursor to osteoporosis.

A medical survey of hundreds of HIV-positive adults, which was presented at the conference, found that approximately 3.4 percent of participants had osteoporosis, even though they were primarily male with an average age of 36.

Among all Americans over the age of 50, 44 million have low bone mass or osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.