February 20, 2007
Bridgewater, NJ -- Since HIV was first diagnosed more than 25 years ago, treatment of the disease and its symptoms has come a long way, with patients today living longer than ever before.1 However, despite improvements in treatment for the disease, a recent survey of more than 350 HIV-positive patients suggests many may still be suffering from anemia. If left unchecked, this common,2 treatable condition often associated with HIV or certain HIV treatments could have a significant impact on both lifestyle and overall health.
The survey was fielded by online HIV/AIDS resource TheBody.com and sponsored by Ortho Biotech Products, L.P. It found that 75 percent of individuals with HIV who responded often feel tired or weak, and more than 70 percent of them believe that tiredness is just a "fact of life" for someone living with HIV. Unfortunately, many did not realize that anemia could be the cause of their symptoms, and more than half of respondents were unaware that there are treatment options available.
"Anemia in patients with HIV could be caused by a number of factors, including some medications used to treat HIV and the natural progression of the disease," said Dr. Robert Scott, co-founder of the AIDS Project East Bay and a practicing internist/HIV specialist in Oakland, CA. "These survey results suggest that many HIV patients may be unknowingly suffering with a common, treatable condition."
Anemia is characterized by a reduction of the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood.2 Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, or paleness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that severe anemia affects approximately 36 percent of HIV-infected individuals,3 yet only 48 percent of survey respondents have ever asked their doctor whether they could be anemic.
"There is not a lot patients can do to entirely prevent or avoid HIV-related anemia," said Dr. Scott. "However, by learning more about the symptoms of HIV-related anemia and talking to their doctor about diagnosis and treatment, patients can take this first important step."
Doctors can easily determine if a patient is anemic by assessing their symptoms and drawing blood for a complete blood count.2 Anemia is only a symptom of a larger problem in patients with HIV, so after diagnosis, treatment of anemia should be chosen to address the underlying cause. This requires subsequent tests, which are chosen by the physician based on the individual and cause of the anemia.3
For more information, talk to your healthcare professional.