For many HIV-positive people, facial lipoatrophy (facial wasting) is a frustrating reality. While facial lipoatrophy is not life-threatening, it is one of the most stigmatizing and troubling complications of HIV. Numerous studies and anecdotal reports have indicated that facial lipoatrophy can have detrimental effects on an affected person's self-confidence and quality of life, and can contribute significantly to depression. And because facial lipoatrophy is believed to be a side effect of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, it can significantly affect a person's "relationship" with his or her medications, possibly resulting in poor adherence or termination of therapy altogether, even if the medications are keeping viral load undetectable and the immune system healthy.
While it is true that researchers still haven't determined the exact mechanism by which lipoatrophy occurs, progress is at hand. This lesson focuses on what we do and don't know about facial lipoatrophy and includes a comprehensive overview of some of the treatments that are being studied (and approved) to help manage it.