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HomeHealth EducationHow HIV Impacts Menopause and Menopause Impacts HIV

How HIV Impacts Menopause and Menopause Impacts HIV


When Vickie Lynn realized she was HIV constructive in 1991 on the age of 21, she thought she’d been given a dying sentence. She actually by no means imagined she’d stay lengthy sufficient to see a milestone that impacts ladies later in life — menopause.

Now 57 years previous and solidly postmenopausal, Lynn nonetheless remembers how onerous it was to discover a healthcare supplier (HCP) who would take her menopause signs critically.

“I used to be having signs that no person actually understood, or they did not join them to menopause,” Lynn mentioned.

Coping with the stress of engaged on her doctorate diploma throughout perimenopause didn’t assist the scenario, and Lynn herself struggled to pinpoint the reason for her signs.

“Is it the HIV, the menopause or the Ph.D.? There was lots happening, and no person might give me any straight solutions,” Lynn mentioned. “It was a really troublesome time.”

Due to a sort of remedy known as antiretroviral remedy (ART), extra persons are dwelling longer lives with HIV. Nearly half of these with HIV in the USA are 50 or older.

For ladies, getting older with HIV could pose distinctive well being challenges, together with through the menopausal transition. And an absence of analysis on how menopause impacts ladies dwelling with HIV — coupled with a scarcity of suppliers who perceive how greatest to deal with these ladies — could make it onerous for menopausal ladies dwelling with HIV to search out the help and care they want.

Watch “The three Levels of Menopause” >>

When does menopause begin, and why does it matter?

For ladies dwelling with HIV, it may be tough to inform when menopause begins. It’s because many ladies with HIV have irregular intervals associated to medical situations related to HIV, mentioned Sara Looby, Ph.D., ANP-BC, a researcher at Massachusetts Basic Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor of drugs at Harvard Medical Faculty.

“It is actually essential for clinicians to not assume that it is true menopause when missed intervals happen,” Looby mentioned. “They need to additionally assess different components apart from menopause — together with psychosocial, behavioral and bodily well being adjustments — that ladies dwelling with HIV is likely to be experiencing that might result in missed intervals.”

That mentioned, some analysis suggests that ladies with HIV begin menopause three to 5 years before different ladies. That is value noting as a result of the sooner a lady goes via menopause, the sooner she begins to lose the protecting results of estrogen in opposition to coronary heart illness, temper adjustments, bone loss and different well being points. Since ladies with HIV are already extra more likely to expertise these points, menopause could make them additional susceptible.

Researchers have additionally discovered that the drop in estrogen that occurs throughout menopause could have an effect on a lady’s CD4 cell depend. CD4 cells are white blood cells that play an essential function in immune well being, and your CD4 cell depend is an effective indicator of how properly your immune system is functioning. The decrease your variety of CD4 cells, the weaker your immune system, and the better your danger of growing critical diseases.

Dwelling with HIV could imply worse menopause signs 

Not solely may ladies with HIV begin menopause sooner in comparison with different ladies, however their signs could also be worse. “There have been conflicting outcomes, however there are a lot of research to this point that counsel that ladies with HIV could expertise extra frequent and extreme sizzling flashes in comparison with ladies with out HIV,” Looby mentioned.

Looby was concerned in analysis on the subject: She and a crew of researchers did a research involving 33 ladies with HIV and 33 with out HIV who have been comparable in age, race and menstrual patterns. They discovered that the ladies with HIV had worse sizzling flashes and that these sizzling flashes have been extra more likely to disrupt their lives.

One other research discovered that menopausal signs doubtlessly have an effect on a affected person’s means to take antiretroviral remedy (ART) as prescribed. And a 3rd research checked out 714 ladies in Nigeria with and with out HIV and located that menopause signs have been usually worse within the ladies dwelling with HIV and that these ladies have been 3 times extra more likely to have extreme signs.

Discovering care is usually a problem

As onerous as it could be for girls to deal with the twin challenges of HIV and menopause, it could be even more durable to search out assist.

Even HCPs who concentrate on menopause could lack expertise relating to treating ladies dwelling with HIV, and never many HIV specialists are additionally specialists on menopause.

“For ladies in the USA who’ve lived with HIV for a very long time — their main care physician is commonly an infectious illness supplier,” Looby mentioned. “These suppliers are phenomenal at managing their sufferers’ HIV and plenty of elements of their main care, although many aren’t essentially skilled to evaluate, diagnose and deal with menopause.”

Suppliers who do deal with menopausal ladies dwelling with HIV could also be reluctant to prescribe remedies resembling hormone remedy (HT) — also referred to as hormone substitute remedy or HRT — as a result of they’re frightened about drug interactions and different points, and sufferers could also be reluctant to take them. In a single research of greater than 800 menopausal ladies dwelling with HIV, solely 8 out of 100 mentioned they used HT through the transition.

That is true despite the truth that, underneath the best circumstances, HT could assist some ladies dwelling with HIV handle menopause signs and enhance their high quality of life.

“I believe there’s lots of worry in prescribing menopausal hormone substitute remedy to particular populations, together with ladies with HIV, as a result of there’s a lack of knowledge displaying security and efficacy on this inhabitants,” Looby mentioned. “Extra analysis and training on each menopause and hormone remedy are wanted for girls with HIV and their suppliers to assist help shared decision-making.”

Looby additionally famous that HCPs for girls with HIV ought to fastidiously think about a person’s well being danger components together with current tips for menopausal hormone use in ladies with out HIV. This cautious consideration performs an essential function in serving to sufferers and their suppliers make knowledgeable choices collectively.

Info is vital to dealing with menopause when you may have HIV

When Lynn was menopausal and making an attempt to grasp what was occurring to her physique, she was discouraged by the overall lack of knowledge about HIV and menopause.

“Not even with the ability to discover any analysis literature on what I used to be going via was very irritating for me,” Lynn mentioned.

So the place ought to ladies dwelling with HIV flip for assist navigating the twists and turns of menopause? Lynn, a public well being and social work skilled who has spent the previous three many years advocating for HIV points, suggests reaching out to organizations, resembling The Nicely Challenge, that may present data in addition to connections to different individuals who perceive what they’re going via.

“I want that each community-based group that serves folks dwelling with HIV had a specialist on menopause or getting older,” Lynn mentioned. “There’s so many people which can be getting older, and so little is understood. We’re nonetheless studying.”

This useful resource was created with help from Gilead.

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