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Let’s Talk About VAT And How It Affects People With HIV

vat man 2VAT (visceral adipose tissue) is a type of hard fat that can affect people with HIV, surrounding the organs and making it difficult for people to do things like bending over to tie their shoes. Many people don’t know that VAT is different from regular fat. When you think about stomach fat, you normally think about the doughy fat around your midsection that usually can be addressed by a healthy diet and exercise. But VAT doesn’t work that way. It can be challenging to reduce VAT with exercise and healthy living alone.

Don’t Take VAT is a new initiative that is helping people to learn more about excess abdominal VAT, how to identify it, and what questions to ask their doctor. For too long, many people have thought of VAT as only a cosmetic issue, but VAT can have health consequences that need to be discussed with a health care provider. You can visit the DontTakeVAT site to find fact sheets about VAT and healthy living with HIV, watch a video that provides a deeper look at VAT and find tips about what to ask your doctor.

vat man 3Excess abdominal VAT is associated with a variety of health concerns, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which is why it’s important to talk to a doctor about it. It’s not known exactly why patients with HIV are prone to excess abdominal VAT, but research has shown that up to half of patients with HIV who are treated with common anti-retroviral therapies (ART) develop body fat abnormalities, including VAT. Others things to consider are gender and age. Women are more prone to developing VAT, as are people older than 40. Risk for VAT also increases the longer someone was treated with ART. A doctor can determine if a person has excess abdominal VAT by assessing the individual’s medical history and HIV therapy regimen and by calculating waist-to-hip ratio and measuring around a patient’s waist and hips.

While having VAT can have both physical and emotional ramifications, it’s important to remember that no one should feel ashamed or embarrassed about it, especially since up to half of all people who are treated for HIV have body fat changes, including too much abdominal VAT. Visit to learn more and take the first step toward talking to your doctor.