Centenary of the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences

The prevalence and burden of pain and other symptoms among South Africans attending highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) clinics

Lindsay Farrant, Liz Gwyther, Natalya Dinat, Keletso Mmoledi, Ntombi Hatta, Richard Harding

Abstract


Background. 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.
Objectives. 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.
Methods. The study design was a cross-sectional survey. Simple random sampling was used to recruit 385 adult participants.
Results. The sample had a median age of 40 years (Q1 - Q3=33 - 46) and 98.4% were on 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.
Conclusions. 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 on 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.

Authors' affiliations

Lindsay Farrant, Palliative Medicine Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town

Liz Gwyther, Palliative Medicine Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town

Natalya Dinat, Wits Palliative Care, School of Internal Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Keletso Mmoledi, Wits Palliative Care, School of Internal Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Ntombi Hatta, Wits Palliative Care, School of Internal Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Richard Harding, Palliative Medicine Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa, and King’s College London, Cicely Saunders Institute, Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, London, UK

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Keywords

Palliative Care; HIV; HAART; symptom prevalence; symptom burden

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2012;102(6):499-500.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-11-24
Date published: 2012-03-02

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