Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and Lipomas: My Unexpected Journey

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been a game-changer in the fight against HIV. As an advocate for HIV prevention, I was excited when Truvada was approved as a pre-exposure prophylaxis drug in 2016. Little did I know that it would come with a surprise gift - a lipoma. Yes, you read that right, a lipoma. Here's my story.

Lipomas are benign lumps made up of fat cells. And PrEP users are more likely to develop them than people who are not taking the medication. Research suggests that PrEP may increase the production of fat cells in the body, leading to the development of lipomas. A French study found that 11% of PrEP users developed lipomas, compared to only 1% of the general population. And shortly after starting PrEP, I became part of that 11%.*

lump on the right shoulder blade
My lipoma caused by taking PrEP
At first, my lipoma didn't cause me any discomfort. It just popped up right on my shoulder blade area, like a little mole that had one too many carbs. But then, it started to grow. And grow. And grow some more. It was like it had a life of its own, and it became uncomfortable. While they couldn't confirm then that the lipoma was caused by my PrEP medication, it was pretty safe to say it was.

During the height of the pandemic in 2020, I had stopped taking PrEP. And the lipoma also stopped growing. I couldn't believe it. PrEP gave me a lipoma! I thought I had read all the possible side effects, but apparently, my body wanted to surprise me.

But I wasn't going to let a little bump ruin my life. I got the lipoma removed (a story for another time), and I'm happy to report that my shoulder is now bump-free. It was a journey full of surprises, but hey, at least I got a good story out of it. And if you're a PrEP user who's also dealing with lipomas, know that you're not alone. It's just a little bump on the road.


* Pialoux, G. et al. (2016). Incidence and Risk Factors of Lipodystrophy in Adults Receiving a Combination of Two Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors and One Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitor. Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 3(3), ofw131.