Menopause May Worsen Fatigue, Muscle Aches Among HIV-Positive Women

Health care providers should be aware of how HIV symptoms may affect menopausal women.

Treatment advances and earlier identification has transformed HIV from a death sentence to a long-term, manageable chronic condition. The aging HIV population presents new challenges for health care providers, who now have to help patients manage multiple diseases.

Related Coverage: Monitoring Drug Interactions in Aging Patients With HIV

Nearly half of the HIV population is 50 years and older, and 20% of those patients are women. It is known that symptoms are more likely to affect women compared with men. HIV-positive women may face symptom exacerbation when going through menopause, according to a new study published by Menopause.

“The study of differences in the way men and women experience HIV symptoms is an important emerging focus,” said co-author Nancy Reame, PhD. “A number of studies have described menopause symptoms in women with HIV, but few have examined whether menopause might help explain the enhanced severity of HIV symptoms observed in women when compared to men.”

In the initial survey, 1342 patients with HIV reported experiencing fatigue, depression, muscle aches, and difficulty sleeping. The authors analyzed the differences in responses from men and women. Then, they conducted a follow-up among 242 women to determine reproductive status.

Depression scores among men and women were similar; however, post-menopausal women experienced worse fatigue and muscle aches than men, despite age, duration of infection, and comorbidities, according to the study.

Notably, HIV-positive women going through menopause reported higher burden scores for muscle aches and pains, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping compared with those who had not gone through menopause, according to the study. These findings remained true after accounting for age, duration, and other conditions.

These results suggest that health care providers should increase monitoring and treatment to lessen burden of these symptoms among menopausal HIV-positive women, according to the authors.

“Given the shifting demographics in the HIV epidemic, our findings are very salient for people living with HIV and their health care providers,” said co-author Rebecca Schnall, PhD. “If health care providers can better predict, identify, and manage the symptoms that are most burdensome to women living with HIV, they can improve care for these women.”