'AIDS Battle Fatigue'
Survey finds HIV patients have trouble sticking to tough drug
By Robert Preidt
SATURDAY, March 31 (HealthScout) -- A new survey says many people
with HIV suffer from "AIDS battle fatigue," which is
caused by the demands of having to swallow handfuls of pills
every day, side effects caused by the drugs and food
finding is a concern because these people need to stick to
their drug treatments to fight the virus and prevent
mutations, which can lead to drug resistance and treatment
can't make enough noise about this because it's the most
important issue in HIV care," says Dr. Charles Farthing,
medical director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los
survey, done by questionnaire and the Internet, includes the
responses of 292 HIV-positive patients taking medication. Of
those, 62 percent said it's somewhat or very difficult to
adhere to their drug regimen.
survey found the major obstacles to complying with treatment
include having to take too many pills (67 percent), side
effects (61 percent), food restrictions (55 percent), the
frequency of having to take the pills (49 percent) and the
timetable for taking the pills (48 percent). Only 1 percent
said cost was a problem.
survey also found 43 percent of those respondents said the
drug regimen interfered with their daily life, 30 percent said
it interfered with their lifestyle, and 11 percent said it
interfered with their job.
survey was conducted in September by Savitz Research and
funded by GlaxoSmithKline.
Morris is well aware of the fatigue factor.
was diagnosed with HIV in 1983, and takes 14 pills each day.
Morris, who coined the "AIDS battle fatigue" term,
is administrator of the wellness program at Beth Israel
Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and counsels HIV patients.
well as having to keep a rigorous pill schedule, he has to be
constantly aware of drug-related food restrictions and other
issues. All this serves as a constant reminder that you're
sick, Morris says.
"battle fatigue" is something that people without
HIV may not be able to understand, Morris says. But he notes
many people complain about having to take an antibiotic for 10
this is something that goes on for the rest of your life, and
is probably going to change and increase as you get
older," Morris says.
no such thing as a vacation from the regimen. Even if he's
going away for just a day, Morris has to plan ahead and make
sure he has his proper medication with him. Morris says he
copes with the drug demands in different ways, but it comes
down to a simple understanding.
have two choices: to do it with a positive attitude or to just
curl up and die," Morris says. "Even though it's not
the most optimal solution, it is probably the only one right
now and tomorrow's going to be a better day."
survey results don't surprise anyone on the medical frontlines
of HIV care, Farthing says.
took awhile to realize that non-adherence was a huge problem,
and then to think and look for all the reasons behind
it," Farthing says.
no doubt that if people do not take antiretroviral therapies
regularly, the disease will progress and death will occur from
AIDS," Farthing says.
do not have a cure for this disease," he says. "The
only way we can keep people alive and well is to keep them on
says there are ways to counter this sense of fatigue. Doctors
need to spend more time talking and doing follow-up to make
sure their patients are sticking to their drug regimen. For
example, doctors need to see their HIV patients every one or
two months instead of every three to four months.
approach is development of new drugs that will give HIV
patients the same benefits with fewer pills.