Intense Menopausal Symptoms Reported in Women With HIV

Doctor counseling female patient
Doctor counseling female patient
Symptoms during the menopausal transition appear to be worse in women with HIV.

During the transition to menopause, women with HIV experienced intense symptoms that severely affected their quality of life, new data suggest.

“Although the majority of women reported experiencing menopausal symptoms to their providers, many of these patients remain untreated,” Takyera S. Robinson, BA, and colleagues wrote in an abstract presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

For the study, Robinson, principal investigator Wen Shen, MD, MPH, and fellow researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and Lutherville, Maryland, conducted an interview survey of female patients at an HIV clinic during an 18-month period. The interview featured the Greene Climacteric scale, which surveys 21 items in 3 domains — psychological, somatic, and vasomotor symptoms.

Overall, 23 women between the ages of 40 and 50 years (mean age, 47.1 years; 100% African American) participated in the interview. The mean length of HIV diagnosis was 13.4 years.

Results revealed that most patients (87%) experienced at least 1 menopausal symptom with intense frequency, resulting in extreme detrimental effects on their quality of life, according to researchers.

In addition, Robinson and colleagues reported the following symptoms in their study population:

  • 100% of women had hot flashes to some degree, with episodes ranging from infrequent to persistent.
  • 78% of women had difficulty sleeping, which on average was reported with moderate frequency (2-3 times per week).
  • 78% of women felt tired or lacked energy with moderate frequency.

While the majority of women (87%) in the study told their primary care physicians about their menopausal symptoms, only 20% of these patients received treatment.

“It was my impression that menopause issues were not being addressed with these patients or were not being treated; our findings thus far confirm the initial impression,” Dr Shen told Endocrinology Advisor.

Dr Shen noted that the results emphasize the need for more education on menopause care for providers who see patients with HIV.

“HIV providers need to ask patients for their symptoms and refer them to menopause practitioners,” she said. “Not all OB/GYNs are versed in care of high-risk menopause patients.”

Richard Paulson, MD, vice president of ASRM, commented in a press release that transitioning to menopause can be particularly challenging for women living with other conditions that affect their overall health and well-being.

“Even though most of the HIV-positive women surveyed in this study reported their menopausal symptoms to their doctors, the vast majority received no treatment for them,” Dr Paulson said.

“We need to better educate the primary healthcare providers to this population about options that can offer relief to their patients on the cusp of menopause.”


  1. Robinson TS, Gaines T, Wu J, Christianson MS, Shen W. Abstract P-1. Experience of Women With Human Immunodeficiency Virus During the Menopause Transition. Presented at: ASRM Annual Meeting; Oct. 17-21, 2015; Baltimore.