If you’re living with HIV, there’s a higher chance you could get fatty liver. According to a study, around 40% of people with HIV might face Metabolic Dysfunction-Associated Steatotic Liver Disease (MASLD) or fatty liver, especially because of some side effects from their HIV medications. If MASLD doesn’t receive immediate attention, patients may need a new liver.

The discomfort and potential health risks associated with MASLD can be distressing. Imagine feeling constantly tired, dealing with discomfort, and knowing that your liver, a vital organ for your overall health, is under strain. This situation often leaves individuals feeling helpless and looking for effective solutions to manage their condition.

In this article, you will discover how Ozempic medication, originally designed for diabetes management, is showing promise in easing the burden of fatty liver in those living with HIV. Clinical trials and patient reports highlight its potential to reduce liver fat and improve overall liver health.

Key Takeaways

  • Approximately 40% of individuals living with HIV may develop Metabolic Dysfunction-Associated Steatotic Liver Disease (MASLD), due to side effects from HIV medications. This condition, if unchecked, can escalate to severe liver issues, including the need for a liver transplant.
  • Ozempic (Semaglutide), a medication originally developed for diabetes management, is demonstrating effectiveness in reducing liver fat and improving overall liver health in HIV-positive individuals suffering from MASLD.
  • Semaglutide mimics GLP-1, a hormone that promotes insulin release and slows food movement through the stomach. Thus, it improves insulin sensitivity, decreases insulin resistance, and potentially reduces liver fat.
  • A 2024 study presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) showed an average 31% reduction in liver fat among participants, with 29% achieving complete resolution of MASLD. These results highlight Semaglutide’s potential in addressing MASLD in HIV-positive individuals.
  • Ozempic was generally well-tolerated, with gastrointestinal side effects being the most common. These were manageable and did not outweigh the therapy’s benefits, indicating its safety for individuals with HIV and MASLD.
  • While the study’s outcomes are promising, further research and monitoring are necessary to fully understand the effectiveness and safety of Ozempic in treating MASLD among people with HIV.

Understanding Fatty Liver and Its Impact on People with HIV

Metabolic Dysfunction-Associated Steatotic Liver Disease (MASLD) or fatty liver, previously known as Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), is characterized by excessive fat accumulation in the liver, not attributed to alcohol consumption or viral infections such as hepatitis. MASLD can get more serious over time, potentially leading to complications like liver failure or liver cancer if not addressed early.

For those with HIV, the risk of developing MASLD is higher, possibly due to HIV’s effects on the body, like inflammation and changes in fat metabolism. It is relatively prevalent, affecting approximately 1 in 3 of people with HIV. This means many people with HIV might have fatty liver disease without even knowing it, especially in its milder stages.

How Does Ozempic Ease Fatty Liver In Those With HIV?

Close up of hands adjusting an Ozempic pen

Semaglutide, marketed under the brand name Ozempic, is a medication with a strong track record in treating type 2 diabetes and managing obesity. It’s designed for those who need to regulate their blood sugar levels and those looking for a long-term weight management solution. Semaglutide is typically administered once a week as an injectable medicine, offering a convenient treatment option for people with these conditions.

The way Semaglutide works is quite interesting. For diabetes management, it mimics a hormone called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) that is naturally produced in the body after eating. This hormone helps the pancreas to release the right amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. Insulin is the hormone that helps sugar move from the blood into the body’s cells, which is used for energy. Additionally, Semaglutide slows down food movement through the stomach, which helps control blood sugar levels and can reduce appetite and food intake, aiding in weight loss.

When it comes to reducing fat accumulation in the liver, especially in cases like metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) in people with HIV, Semaglutide’s mechanism is beneficial. Still, it works through pathways that are not yet fully understood. The reduction in liver fat is likely linked to its ability to improve insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin resistance, which are common issues in MASLD. Enhancing the way the body uses insulin helps lower the amount of fat stored in the liver. Additionally, weight loss resulting from Semaglutide’s use can further decrease liver fat since obesity is a major risk factor for fatty liver disease.

What Does The Research Says About This?

HIV Virus

The 2024 study on Semaglutide, presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Denver, marked a significant milestone in the treatment of MASLD in people with HIV. This groundbreaking research showcased the effectiveness of Semaglutide in reducing liver fat content among HIV-positive individuals suffering from MASLD.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and was conducted across the United States and Brazil by the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), a global clinical trials network focusing on HIV and other infectious diseases. The McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston also provided funding.

The trial enrolled individuals with HIV and MASLD who were 18 years and older and whose viral load was suppressed to undetectable levels by antiretroviral therapy (ART). The participant group was diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, gender, and age, which is crucial for ensuring the study’s findings apply to a wide range of people living with HIV. Remarkably, a significant portion of the participants (82% of the 49 analyzed) were on ART regimens containing an integrase strand transfer inhibitor, a class of drugs known for their effectiveness in suppressing HIV but also associated with weight gain in some individuals.

Over a 24-week period, participants self-injected weekly doses of Semaglutide, gradually increasing to a 1-milligram dose by week four while also undergoing frequent safety monitoring. The study’s primary endpoint was the change in liver fat content, assessed through a specific type of MRI designed to measure liver fat. The results were compelling, showing an average 31% reduction in liver fat among participants, with 29% achieving a complete resolution of MASLD, defined as decreasing their liver fat to 5% or less of overall liver content. Furthermore, participants experienced benefits beyond liver health, including weight loss and improvements in fasting blood glucose and triglycerides.

This clinical trial stands out not only for its positive outcomes but also for being the first of its kind to explore the use of Semaglutide in treating MASLD among people with HIV. The findings from this study not only open new avenues for managing MASLD in HIV-positive populations but also underscore the potential of Semaglutide as a versatile and effective treatment option.

By successfully demonstrating that Semaglutide can safely reduce liver fat in individuals with HIV, this research paves the way for further investigations into its benefits and applications, potentially revolutionizing the approach to treating MASLD and contributing to healthier aging in the HIV community.

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How Safe Is Ozempic for People with HIV?

How Safe Is Ozempic for People with HIV

The findings indicated that Ozempic was generally well-tolerated by participants, with an adverse event profile similar to what has been observed in populations without HIV. The most common side effects reported during the study were gastrointestinal, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. These adverse events are consistent with the known side effect profile of Ozempic. Despite these side effects, the participants could continue their treatment, suggesting that the discomfort was manageable and did not outweigh the benefits of the therapy.

Additionally, two participants experienced more significant adverse events that were possibly related to the Ozempic treatment. However, these were not severe enough to require discontinuation of the therapy, and the individuals could complete the full 24-week study duration at the originally prescribed dose. This further supports the notion that Ozepic is a safe option for individuals with HIV and MASLD.

The safety monitoring during the study ensured that any adverse effects were promptly identified and addressed. Regular safety monitoring visits allowed for the early detection of potential side effects and ensured that participants received appropriate care. This level of oversight is critical in clinical trials, especially when investigating treatments for conditions affecting vulnerable populations, such as people with HIV.

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Final Thoughts

Ozempic has shown promising results in easing fatty liver in individuals with HIV, addressing the impact of MASLD on this population. Research indicates that Ozempic may be a safe option for individuals with HIV, providing a potential treatment for fatty liver disease in this specific group. However, further studies and monitoring are necessary to fully understand the effectiveness and safety of Ozempic in managing fatty liver in individuals with HIV.

FAQs About Ozempic And Fatty Liver In Those With HIV

How long can Ozempic be used for treating fatty liver in people with HIV?

The duration of Ozempic treatment for fatty liver in people with HIV may vary depending on individual response and healthcare provider recommendations.

Are there any special precautions to take while using Ozempic for fatty liver in people with HIV?

It is important to monitor liver function tests regularly while using Ozempic for fatty liver in people with HIV, as directed by a healthcare provider.

Can pregnant individuals with HIV use Ozempic?

Pregnant individuals with HIV should consult with their healthcare provider before using Ozempic, as the safety of the medication during pregnancy has not been established.

How is Ozempic administered to people with HIV?

Ozempic is typically administered as a subcutaneous injection once a week for the treatment of fatty liver in people with HIV.

How long does it take to see results from Ozempic for fatty liver in people with HIV?

Results from Ozempic treatment for fatty liver in people with HIV may vary. Still, improvements can often be seen within a few months of starting treatment.


i-Base. (Last updated: December 1, 2023). HIV and fatty liver disease. Retrieved from https://i-base.info/guides/side/hiv-and-fatty-liver-disease

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). (2024, March 5). Semaglutide Reduces Severity of Common Liver Disease in People with HIV. NIAID: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/semaglutide-reduces-severity-common-liver-disease-people-hiv