Nearly half of women with HIV lack support to manage menopause

May 18, 2018, University College London
Credit: World Bank (Flickr)

Women with HIV are failing to get the support they need during menopause, according to a new study led by UCL. 

The Positive Transitions through the Menopause (PRIME) report, which is one of the largest of its kind, involving almost 900 women living with HIV aged 45-60 across England, found that 47 percent of women with HIV do not have the information they need to manage

In a related study by the PRIME team, a survey of 88 GPs found that less than half of GPs (46 percent) feel confident managing menopause in women with HIV, despite the vast majority (96 percent) reporting they feel confident managing menopause in general.

The most common concerns among GPs were potential drug interactions between hormone treatment and HIV medication (79 percent) and missing an HIV-related diagnosis (51 percent).

Treatment advances mean that more and more people living with HIV are reaching their 50s and beyond.  One third of people living with HIV in the UK are female; approximately 10,000 are of menopausal age, with a further 10 to 20,000 predicted to reach this age group in the next 5 to 10 years. Despite this, a recent report by the Terrence Higgins Trust 'Invisible No Longer' highlights the lack of research on women living with HIV.  The PRIME Study is an important step towards addressing this gap.

"One of the key findings of the study was the lack of information on menopause and support available to women with HIV. There are examples where women are going back and forth between their GP and HIV specialist, creating additional frustration and uncertainty during an already unsettling time.  These findings may well apply to other groups of women managing long-term medical conditions such as those with diabetes." said study lead Dr Shema Tariq, Clinical Research Fellow and Consultant HIV Physician (UCL Institute for Global Health)

"We recommend that HIV clinical services, GPs and HIV support services be aware of the potential impact of the on the health and well-being of women living with HIV, and ensure that services are able to support women during this time." 

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • High-quality and accessible information about the menopause should be available to all women living with HIV attending HIV clinics
  • Menopause among women with HIV should be managed within primary care, supported by close liaison with HIV specialists
  • Primary care staff should receive training to improve confidence and skills related to managing menopause in women with HIV
  • Peer-support for women living with HIV transitioning through the menopause
  • Further research on the impact of on mental health, clinical outcomes and quality of life in women with HIV
  • A more joined up approach among commissioners of care across the HIV pathway, and a greater focus on the impact of menopause on well-being

Further findings from the report:

The most common symptoms reported among women with HIV during menopause are: 

  • Somatic symptoms (89 percent) including hot flushes, muscle and joint pains and sleep disturbance, while 78 percent are affected by psychological issues including anxiety and depression; and 68 percent of women are affected by urogenital symptoms including vaginal dryness and sexual problems.
  • Women living with HIV described particular challenges during the menopause as a result of living with HIV, including difficulties distinguishing between menopause and HIV-related symptoms, accessing appropriate menopause care, and the impact of on HIV management. 
  • Use of hormone replacement therapy to improve menopausal symptoms was strikingly low among women with HIV. Some women reported they did not want to become overburdened by medication, while others simply did not have access to information to make an informed decision.  Less than one-in-ten living with HIV with menopausal symptoms were using hormone therapy. 

Explore further: Sleep problems in menopause linked to hot flashes, depression, and may not last

More information: The PRIME report: … 0180515090315/995fee

Related Stories

Sleep problems in menopause linked to hot flashes, depression, and may not last

February 20, 2018
Sleep disruptions are one of the most commonly reported complaints among menopausal women. A new study of middle-aged women found that sleep problems vary across the stages of menopause, yet are consistently correlated with ...

Menopausal mood swings can signal more serious mental illness

April 9, 2018
Most women expect to experience the effects of hormonal changes when they come to menopause and many anticipate increased irritability and mood swings. But mood swings that can be just an annoyance for some women can develop ...

Weight plays a role in menopause age

March 9, 2018
Being underweight or overweight could affect the age at which women experience menopause, a University of Queensland study has found.

For those with HIV, symptom burden higher in women

March 26, 2018
(HealthDay)—The burden of two of the most common symptoms in patients living with HIV—fatigue and muscle aches/joint pains—is higher in women, according to a study published online March 5 in Menopause.

Severity of menopause symptoms could help predict heart disease

April 11, 2018
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in women. A study of 138 menopausal women examined the association of mood, symptoms, and quality of life measures with the key markers of vascular aging, a major risk factor ...

Hormone therapy not advised for preventing disease after menopause

May 17, 2017
(HealthDay)—Using hormone therapy to prevent chronic health issues, such as heart disease and bone loss, in postmenopausal women may do more harm than good, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says.

Recommended for you

Proof-of-concept HIV immunotherapy study passes Phase 1 safety trial

September 21, 2018
Preliminary results from a phase I clinical trial have demonstrated the safety and tolerability of a cell therapy involving the ex vivo expansion of T cells and their subsequent infusion into HIV-infected individuals previously ...

FRESH program combines basic science with social benefits for women at risk of HIV

September 14, 2018
A program established by investigators from the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), MIT and Harvard is addressing the persistently elevated risk of HIV infection among young women in South Africa from ...

New study finds HIV outbreak in Indiana could have been prevented

September 13, 2018
An HIV outbreak among people who inject drugs in Indiana from 2011 to 2015 could have been avoided if the state's top health and elected officials had acted sooner on warnings, a new study by the Yale School of Public Health ...

Largest study of 'post-treatment controllers' reveals clues about HIV remission

September 13, 2018
Most HIV patients need to take daily anti-retroviral therapy—if they suspend treatment, HIV will rebound within 3-4 weeks. But clinical trials have revealed that a small fraction of patients can stop taking medications ...

Very few sexually active gay and bisexual men use prophylactic drug to prevent HIV transmission, study finds

September 12, 2018
Only 4 percent of sexually active gay and bisexual men in the United States use Truvada, a highly effective medication used to prevent the transmission of HIV, according to the results of a first-of-its-kind study.

Special antibodies could lead to HIV vaccine

September 10, 2018
Around one percent of people infected with HIV produce antibodies that block most strains of the virus. These broadly acting antibodies provide the key to developing an effective vaccine against HIV. Researchers from the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.