What’s Worse: Death or a Muffin Top?

HIV-Related Belly Fat

Biggest issue with HIV: Belly Fat (of course)

What is it with Wednesdays? Last Wednesday I was just a nice young woman looking for some adult-sized deodorant (FAIL!), and this week I was minding my own business at a red light (just kidding, I was actually texting and updating my Facebook status) when I saw this advertisement on a bus stop for the drug Egrifta.  Egrifta’s gift to the world: helping people living with an HIV positive diagnosis deal with that unseemly “excess belly fat.”

Excuse me, but am I the only person who thinks that the last thing someone who is managing HIV needs is pressure to now also have a hard body?  Oh, you poor sufferers of HIV, you have managed to stay alive, which is a decent enough accomplishment, but if you could also lose that muffin top, then you will really be accomplishing something special.

Being alive: that’s B+ work.

Having a sexy stomach: that’s A+ work.

I did a little research on Egrifta and found the following facts (don’t say that Outlaw Mama doesn’t teach you a thing or two):

On November 11, 2010, the FDA approved Egrifta (“tesamorelin for injection”) as “the first and only treatment indicated to reduce excess abdominal fat in HIV-infected patients.”

According to the press release, the raison d’etre for Egrifta is simple: It’s only good to be alive if you have killer abs. “As HIV-infected patients are living longer, a substantial number may develop metabolic complications associated with HIV, such as abdominal lipohypertrophy [a fat stomach],” said Dr. Morris Schambelan, Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco. “With the approval of EGRIFTA™, doctors are now able to provide appropriately selected patients with a treatment option shown to reduce visceral adipose tissue [the fat stomach].”

Ya’ll, are you kidding me? The gift that medical research gives HIV positive people is a drug to reduce the muffin top?  Might the drug companies have spent the money on a drug that might eradicate the more pernicious effects of the virus?  For example, death? Did the dollars I spent doing the AIDS Walk go towards the development of Egrifta?  If so, I want a refund, and a new pair of Brooks running shoes for my pain and suffering.

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5 thoughts on “What’s Worse: Death or a Muffin Top?

  1. I saw this yesterday and did a double-take. It makes America seem gross in the same way the 4th of July hot dog eating contest does. So many HIV sufferers in other parts of the world (and a fair few here too) cannot access life saving meds, but here we have to address the minor cosmetic effects of the virus too.

  2. These ads are not trying to imply that people stop HIV treatment & start treating their abdominal fat. HIV and the meds to treat it (specifically, early protease inhibitors like crixivan) cause metabolic changes which create this uneven distribution of fat – and so diet and exercise won’t redistribute the fat (but they can sometimes decrease it in some people). Abdominal fat will increase the risk of diabetes and cardiac disease. It acts differently from fat in other parts of the body. Now that people with HIV live 20+ years, they are going to be at increased risk of other things as they age because of the excess fat surrounding their internal organs. Liposuction can’t do anything for fat below the muscle (where most of it is – on the organs themselves). Studies have found that abdominal liposuction patients are not at any lower risk of heart disease or diabetes (it’s the fat under the muscle that affects the organs). Plus, for those vain patients out there who won’t take their meds because it makes them look fat…now there’s a solution…in theory.

    Unfortunately, the drug is not tremendously effective…it has had mixed, modest results. Like facial fillers (for facial wasting) that came out in the 90s (and then launched a whole generation of mutant housewives once the fillers were used outside the HIV+ population), it may help to reduce the stigma of HIV – for those who know the obvious “signs”. Personally, I think these ads are quite bizarre. They basically say “hey world – seen a guy with a big pregnant belly? He has AIDS!” which then make HIV + people even more self conscious & likely to run to their docs for this (very expensive) injection. It seems almost deliberate. I’ve never seen an ad campaign quite like it. I was somewhat put off by the ads & the precise geographical targeting of them (edgewater, lakeview) — so I found your site on a google search to see if anyone else had the same feeling. It’s quite awkward to be waiting for a bus next to this ad with another guy who has a big stomach sticking out but spider skinny limbs…

    • Thank you do much for contributing to the conversation. I think about the implications every single time I see this. I live off Western, and there are three very near me. Your insights are appreciated here.

  3. Sure mama… Thanks. I can’t believe I wrote that long essay! I’d love to know what’s happening inside the marketer’s heads…my friends all seem to think it’s a deliberate move to embarrass people so they get the drug. I’d like to think that’s cynical & the drug co’s are more ethical than that… but who knows. I do think they can reach their customers in a more targeted (and discreet) manner. HIV is still not a very open topic for most people. HIV oriented websites are out there…and they can give the information to doctors who treat HIV to put in their office (like pamphlets that are always at the front desk or posted up at Howard Brown, etc)…but to put it up at every bus every bus stop where gay people live…that’s just weird. And come to think of it – with the15+ HIV meds out there, I don’t think a single one was advertised directly to consumers quite like this. Granted, I don’t take the bus that much – but that’s even more weird! I’ve seen more of these in the past 6 mos than any other bus stop ad since the first iPod! Well, I assume they’ve signed some long term contract to keep Mr. Grey sweater up there for a while… though I think the message is conveyed by now!

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