HIV-related symptoms and management in HIV and antiretroviral therapy patients in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: a longitudinal study

SOURCE: Sahara J: Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
DEPARTMENT: Public Health, Societies and Belonging (HSC)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 8107
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/2549

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The study aimed to determine the prevalence, predictors, and self-reported management of HIV- or ARV-related symptoms among HI patients prior to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and over three time points while receiving ART in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. A total of 735 consecutive patients (29.8% male and 70.2% female) who attended three HIV clinics completed assessments prior to ARV initiation, 519 after 6 months, 557 after 12 months, and 499 after 20 months on ART. Results: The HIV patients reported an average of 7.5 symptoms (prior to ART), 1.2 symptoms after 6 months on ART, 0.3 symptoms after 12 months on ART, and 0.2 symptoms after 20 months on ARTon the day of the interview, with a higher symptom frequency amongst patients who were not employed, had lower CD 4 cell counts, experienced internalised stigma, and used alcohol. The most common symptoms or conditions identified by the self-report included tuberculosis, diarrhoea, headaches, rash, nausea and vomiting, pain, neuropathy, lack of appetite, cough, and chills. Overall, the participants reported medications as the most frequently occurring management strategy, with the second being spiritual, and the third being complementary or traditional treatments. The use of all other management strategies decreased over the four different assessment periods from prior to ART to 20 months on ART. Conclusion: This study found a high symptom burden among HIV patients, which significantly decreased with progression on antiretroviral treatment. Several symptoms that persisted over time and several sociodemographic factors were identified that can guide symptom management. The utilisation of different symptom management strategies (medical, spiritual, complementary, and traditional) should be taken into consideration in HIV treatment.