Q. Can taking antiretrovirals cause belly fat?

Answered by
Dr. Ravinder Kaur Sachdeva
and medically reviewed by Dr. Divya Banu M

Hello doctor,

I am HIV negative and have been taking Truvada and Tivicay now for exactly one month but have stopped. I am pretty regular at the gym and maintain a consistent weight of about 146 to 149. Over the past month, I have gained about 5 lbs. At times my stomach looks pregnant and it is always relatively flat. Most of the weight is belly fat. Is there some correlation with the Truvada or Tivicay regimen? Is it temporary or permanent?

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Dr. Ravinder Kaur Sachdeva

HIV/AIDS Specialist


Welcome to icliniq.com.

I wanted to ask you whether you had taken Truvada and Tivicay as post-exposure prophylaxis? Belly fat changes which you have developed is one of the side-effect of antiretrovirals which you had taken. The mechanism underlying is not known. As you are not taking medicines now, it is expected to improve.

Regular exercise and dietary changes will help you. Also, get your blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and lipid profile done.

The Probable causes:

ARV- Dolutegravir.

Investigations to be done:

FBS, lipid profile.

Probable diagnosis:

ARV toxicity.

Treatment plan:

Continue ARV as prescribed.

Preventive measures:

Regular exercise, diet changes.

Thank you doctor,

I did take the medicine for only a precautionary measure of post-exposure but I am HIV negative. So that part is fine. I did have an abdominal CT scan and everything is fine but my stomach is still big. Anything else I should do as my stomach has never been like this. Thank you very much.

Dr. Ravinder Kaur Sachdeva

HIV/AIDS Specialist


Welcome back to icliniq.com.

If you are not HIV infected, the one month exposure of drugs could not attribute to fat redistribution. If there is sudden body disfigurement, you need to go for general physical examination by a clinician for a decision for appropriate test. It may or may not be lipodystrophy alone​.

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