n South African Medical Journal - The prevalence and burden of pain and other symptoms among South Africans attending HAART clinics : research

Volume 102, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Since the advent of antiretrovirals, HIV disease has largely come to be considered a chronic disease for those able to access treatment. As such, the concept of 'living well' with HIV is important. Increasing evidence suggests a high symptom burden in HIV that persists in the presence of treatment.

Our study aimed to measure the prevalence and burden of pain and other physical and psychological symptoms among South African HIV-positive patients attending highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) clinics.
The study design was a cross-sectional survey. Simple random sampling was used to recruit 385 adult participants.
The sample had a median age of 40 years (Q1 - Q3=33 - 46) and 98.4% were receiving HAART. The mean latest CD4 count for the participants was 355.06±219/mm3. The mean number of symptoms of the 32 symptoms on the MSAS-SF experienced by participants was 10.24±5.71 (range 1 - 28). All 4 psychological symptoms were in the top 10 most prevalent symptoms, with feeling sad being the most prevalent symptom overall.
The high prevalence of symptoms and the high symptom burden experienced by the participants in this survey suggest inadequate symptom control and highlight the palliative care needs of an ambulant patient population already receiving HAART. Extension of life without reasonable efforts to also address the patient's quality of life is not ethically justifiable. In addition, more research appears to be required to answer whether these findings are associated with sub-optimal HAART adherence.

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