12 July 2013

HIV+ women hit harder by menopausal symptoms

New evidence suggests that women with HIV are affected more by menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, than women who don't carry the virus.


As women infected with HIV live longer, new evidence is suggesting that menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes may affect them worse than women who don't carry the virus.

"Perimenopausal HIV-infected women experience greater hot flash severity and greater hot flash-related interference with daily activities and quality of life, compared to non-infected women going through menopause," report researchers led by Sara Looby of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Excessive menopausal symptoms might even compromise the health of HIV-positive women, including their ability to adhere to drug therapy and abstain from drugs and alcohol, the team said.

Looby and her colleagues urged doctors who care for middle-aged HIV-infected women to evaluate their hot flashes and offer effective treatment.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 33 HIV-infected women, aged 45-48, with irregular menstrual cycles (perimenopause) and compared their responses with those of perimenopausal women without HIV.


The women with HIV typically experienced moderate hot flashes while the women without HIV mild hot flashes. The HIV-infected women also had more sleep problems, more depressed moods, irritability and anxiety.

Hot flashes also interfered more with HIV-infected women's work, social and leisure activities, concentration, relationships with others, sexuality, enjoyment of life and overall quality of life.

In fact, the harmful effect of hot flashes among women with HIV was greater than has been reported for breast cancer survivors, according to the study published online July 3 in the journal Menopause.

It's not clear why hot flashes are worse in HIV-infected women and further research is needed to learn the answers, the study authors said.

More information

The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more about menopause.

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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