What Is HIV Nephropathy?
HIV and AIDS Data Verified

HIV Nephropathy - Causes, Clinical Manifestations, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Sep 22, 2022 and last reviewed on Mar 10, 2023   -  5 min read


HIV Nephropathy is a kidney disease that develops in association with infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Read the following article to know more.


HIV Nephropathy occurs in patients infected by a virus called HIV, which eventually leads to acute renal failure. These viruses infect the renal tissues and replicate within them, causing damage to the renal tissues. It can be defined as collapsing glomerulopathy as it affects the glomerular capillaries, causing obstruction and altering kidney function. The renal epithelium is found to be the reservoir of HIV infection, which harbors the transcriptionally active viruses.

What Is the History Behind HIV Nephropathy?

The first case of HIV Nephropathy was reported in 1984 in Newyork city. Within a few years of the first reported case, it was identified as one of the major complications of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), affecting the majority of the population. In 1999 it was found to be the third leading cause of end-stage renal disease.

What Is HIV Nephropathy?

It is a disease condition affecting the kidneys in patients infected by HIV. It is also known as HIV-associated nephropathy and has evolved as one of the important causes of chronic kidney disease and renal failure.

What Is HIV?

The human Immunodeficiency virus is an RNA virus that belongs to the retrovirus family. It is a sexually transmitted infection that causes a serious illness in humans called AIDS, which suppresses the immune system paving the way for the development of life-threatening opportunistic infections, carcinomas, and other serious disorders.

What Is the Epidemiology of HIV Nephropathy?

The incidence of HIV Nephropathy was high in the 1990s because of the lack of knowledge and poor treatment facilities. Studies report that it is predominantly seen among African descendants, but the recent statistics show that the prevalence of the disease has decreased comparatively due to the implementation of combined antiretroviral therapies, which limits the disease process.

What Is the Etiology of HIV Nephropathy?

As stated earlier, It is exclusively seen in patients infected with HIV. The possible factors involved in the rapid progression of the disease involves

What Is the Pathogenesis of HIV Nephropathy?

The exact mechanism of how the HIV cells affect the kidney is still unclear because the main receptors required for the virus to enter T-cells are absent in the kidney. The lymphocytes such as CD 209 antigen and lymphocyte antigen 75 are found to be directly involved in the infection of renal tubular epithelial cells. The HIV proteins such as Vpr and tat that circulate in the plasma and lipids have access to the specialized epithelial cells that cover the surface of the glomerular capillaries called podocytes, thereby gaining entry into the renal tissues and causing infection.

What Are the Clinical Manifestations of HIV Nephropathy?

It is a rapidly progressive renal disease that may lead to end-stage renal disease in no time once it gains entry into the nephrons. The accompanying signs and symptoms include:

  • Proteinuria - Excretion of protein in the urine.

  • Pyuria - Increased white blood cells (WBC) in urine.

  • Bland Urinary Sediment - Urine sediment will be bland without the presence of intrinsic elements.

  • Microhematuria - Small traces of blood in urine, which can be appreciated by microscopic examination only.

How Is HIV Nephropathy Diagnosed?

The vital methods involved in the diagnosis of HIV Nephropathy involve:

1. History and Clinical Examination

Collecting proper history from the patient regarding the preexisting disease and the appropriate clinical examination is the first and foremost thing to be considered.

2. Laboratory Findings

This includes:

  • Tests to confirm HIV in affected individuals.

  • Urine analysis for the presence of proteinuria.

  • Urine analysis to find out pyuria and to evaluate urinary sediments.

3. Light Microscopic Findings

Histopathological findings reveal:

  • The collapse of the glomerular basement membrane.

  • Occlusion of the glomerular capillaries.

  • Hypertrophy and hyperplasia of the podocytes.

  • Visceral epithelial cells appear clouded, which obstructs the urinary space.

4. Immunofluorescence Findings

The immunofluorescence findings reveal the segmental deposition of IgM and C3 in the collapsed glomeruli. Visceral epithelial cells show positive staining for IgG, IgA, and Albumin.

What Are All the Differential Diagnosis of HIV Nephropathy?

The conditions to be considered as a differential diagnosis for HIV Nephropathy may include

  • HIV-Associated Immune Complex Kidney Disease -Is characterized by the dysregulation of the immunoglobulin synthetic responses and deposition of the immune complex in the glomeruli, thereby causing injury to the kidneys.

  • Amyloidosis - Is characterized by the deposition of abnormal proteinaceous material in different organs, causing damage.

  • Diabetic Nephropathy - It occurs due to poor control of blood sugar levels affecting the filtering capacity of the kidneys.

  • IgA Nephropathy - It is characterized by the deposition of IgA antibodies in the kidney, causing damage to the renal tissues.

How to Manage HIV Nephropathy?

The main aim of managing this condition is to prevent the disease from progressing to end-stage renal disease.

  • Combined Antiretroviral Therapy - This is the mainstay of treatment in HIV Nephropathy as it limits the disease from progressing to renal failure.

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or Angiotensin Receptor Blocker (ARB) - These drugs are aimed at blocking the Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) which has been found to improve the kidney function in addition to antiretroviral therapy.

  • Renal Transplantation Surgery - It should be considered in patients who have developed an end-stage renal disease, and it is found to be effective in patients with controlled HIV.

  • Corticosteroids - Can be considered in patients who do not respond to initial treatment.

What Is the Prognosis of HIV Nephropathy?

HIV Nephropathy was reported to be an aggressive disease with a poor prognosis till the implementation of antiretroviral therapy in the treatment of this disease. After the introduction of antiretroviral therapy, the prognosis of the disease has improved considerably. But the prognosis of HIV Nephropathy is bad when compared to nephropathy due to other causes.

What Are the Complications of HIV Nephropathy?

The most common complications of HIV Nephropathy are:

  • Chronic kidney disease- Chronic kidney disease may develop as a complication as the kidneys lose their function permanently.

  • Renal failure - Complete loss of kidney function due to the effect of the virus.

Other rare complications include:

  • Hypertension- It may develop as a result of disturbed renin aldosterone mechanism due to poor kidney function.

  • Edema- It may occur as a consequence of progressing kidney disease.


HIV Nephropathy is a rapidly progressive disease that needs to be addressed earlier. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of the underlying condition are essential to prevent the development of renal failure. Regular follow-up and frequent kidney function tests are necessary for susceptible individuals.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does a Person With HIV Develop Nephropathy?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection can spread to the nephrons in the kidneys and cause improper kidney function and damage. Sometimes, the medications used for HIV infection can also damage the nephrons and kidneys if they are not monitored carefully.


Can HIV Infection Cause Membranous Nephropathy?

Yes, membrane neuropathy has been observed in patients the human immunodeficiency virus infection. Membranous nephropathy or membranous glomerulopathy, is a type of many glomerular disorders that cause nephrotic syndrome and is characterized by severe proteinuria.


What Does Nephropathy Mean?

Nephropathy is a medical term used for kidney diseases. In nephropathy, there will be a deterioration of the functions of the kidney. In several cases, kidney failure is seen in the final stage of nephropathy (end-stage renal disease).


How Does HIV Infection Affect Kidneys?

HIV infection can directly affect the kidney cells and cause kidney damage. In addition, cytokines, viral gene products, and antiretroviral drugs cause significant damage to the renal epithelial cells resulting in nephropathy and end-stage renal disease.


Is Nephropathy a Disorder of the Kidneys?

Yes, nephropathy is an impairment in kidney function. The decrease in kidney function is referred to as nephropathy. The last stage of nephropathy is known as kidney failure or end-stage renal disease. HIV-associated nephropathy usually has clinical symptoms related to localized segmental glomerulosclerosis.


Is Nephropathy a Serious Condition?

In nephropathy, the kidneys are damaged due to underlying medical conditions, leading to kidney failure and associated complications. Nephropathy may progress to complete kidney failure and fatal complications if the underlying medical conditions are not treated effectively.


What Are the Tests Done to Identify Nephropathy?

Nephropathy means kidney disease. Blood tests (glomerular filtration test), urine tests (albumin), and imaging tests of the kidneys, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), ultrasound, and CT (computed tomography), are commonly done to diagnose nephropathy.


Is Nephropathy a Reversible Condition?

Nephropathy may cause irreversible damage to the kidney cells resulting in kidney failure. However, proper treatment can manage nephropathy to prevent further kidney damage and complications.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
10 Mar 2023  -  5 min read




Comprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

Related Questions & Answers

Malarial Nephropathy - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Article Overview: Malarial nephropathy is the deterioration of kidney function caused by a malarial infection. Malaria is a parasitic infection caused by plasmodium species. Read Article

C. Elanchezhian
C. Elanchezhian
General Medicine

What Is Malaria? Malaria is a parasitic infection caused when a female Anopheles mosquito with the malarial parasite bites a person. It acts as a vector to carry the parasite and spreads the disease. The mosquito becomes infected when the blood is drawn from an infected person containing the parasit...  Read Article

IgA Nephropathy - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Management

Article Overview: IgA Nephropathy is caused by the deposition of IgA antibodies in the kidneys, causing inflammation and impaired renal function. To know more, read the article below. Read Article

Manzoor Ahmad Parry
Manzoor Ahmad Parry

Introduction IgA Nephropathy, known as Berger’s disease, occurs as a result of the deposition of IgA antibodies in the kidneys. IgA is nothing but an antibody synthesized by the immune system in response to foreign agents. The deposited antibody will cause inflammation of the kidneys, which eventu...  Read Article

Is the HIV RNA test conclusive?

Query: Hi doctor, I had unprotected sex with a woman for two to three minutes around four weeks ago. I took HIV (Human Immuno Deficiency Virus ) 1 RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) test on 11th day which was negative. Again I took complete STD (Sexually Transmitted disease) panel tests on 21st day with HIV-1 RNA and ...  Read Full »

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on Hiv or Nephropathy?

Ask a Doctor Online

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.