Study: Osteoporosis is more common among patients with HIV and hepatitis C

Previous studies have already established that individuals with HIV are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. Now, the latest research has found a corollary to this effect. According to a new investigation, HIV-positive patients who have hepatitis C have even higher rates of osteoporosis than those without the liver disease.

The findings, which were published in the Journal of Hepatology, pointed to the need for increased vigilance for bone loss among people co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that osteoporosis is already four times more likely among people with HIV than among those without the disease.

HIV and hepatitis C are both incurable diseases, though each may be brought under control with medical treatments and prescription medications.

Approximately 20,000 new cases of hepatitis C - a chronic liver disorder that causes inflammation scarring and even failure of the organ - occur every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By contrast, new HIV infections are nearly three times as prevalent. The agency reports that more than 56,000 new cases of HIV are contracted annually.

In the new study, scientists analyzed the bone mineral density of around 180 patients who had tested positive for both HIV and hepatitis C. Around 28 percent of the participants, most of whom were middle-aged African-Americans, tested positive for osteoporosis.

Bone density scans found that these patients were most likely to have low bone mass in the spine, followed by the hip and leg.

In contrast to these results, the study's authors said that previously gathered data indicate that people infected solely with HIV have between a 15 and 20 percent chance of having osteoporosis.

The team concluded that while further research into the interactions between HIV, hepatitis C and bone tissue is merited, physicians should strongly consider testing all patients with HIV or hepatitis for decreased bone density.

More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 34 million are at risk for it, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
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