Contact: Linda Muskat-Rim
Columbia University School of Nursing
[email protected]
(212) 305-3282


Menopause Contributes to a Greater Impact From Fatigue and Muscle Aches in Women Living With HIV


Newswise — New York, NY (March 19, 2018)—In a recent study, researchers at Columbia University School of Nursing found that post-menopausal women, an expanding demographic among aging HIV patients, suffer more from fatigue and muscle aches than others living with HIV—findings that could support better care management for this growing patient population.

“The study of differences in the way men and women experience HIV symptoms is an important emerging focus,” said co-author Nancy Reame, PhD, Mary Dickey Lindsay Professor Emerita of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “A number of studies have described menopause symptoms in women with HIV, but few have examined whether menopause might help explain the enhanced severity of HIV symptoms observed in women when compared to men.” 

The study builds on the results of a national online survey conducted from February to August 2016 by co-author Rebecca Schnall, PhD, Mary Dickey Lindsay Associate Professor of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Schnall conducted the survey to better understand how people living with HIV in the United States experience symptoms and manage their disease. 

In the survey, people living with HIV reported fatigue, depression, muscle aches, and difficulty falling asleep as their most common symptoms. For the study, Schnall and Reame analyzed the original survey data to compare responses from women and men. They then conducted a follow-up survey among the women who participated to assess their reproductive status.

Their findings showed post-menopausal women suffered a greater impact from fatigue and muscle aches—regardless of age, duration of HIV infection, and other health conditions.

In recent decades, HIV has largely become a chronic condition, and an increasing percentage of people with HIV are now living longer. Nearly half of the 1.1 million Americans with an HIV diagnosis are age 50 or older. Although women make up less than 20 percent of people with HIV, the number of those women over the age of 50 is growing. Additionally, while previous studies have shown that some HIV symptoms affect women more than men, little was known about the influence of menopause on this added burden.

“Given the shifting demographics in the HIV epidemic, our findings are very salient for people living with HIV and for their health care providers,” said Schnall. “If health care providers can better predict, identify, and manage the symptoms that are most burdensome to women living with HIV, they can improve care for these women.”

The paper, titled “In People Living With HIV (PLWH), Menopause (Natural or Surgical) Contributes to the Greater Symptom Burden in Women: Results From an Online US Survey,” was published in the March 2018 online edition of Menopause. Other study contributors from Columbia Nursing are Haomiao Jia, PhD, associate professor of biostatistics, and Melissa Gradilla, MPH, research coordinator; and Susan Olender, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research and the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health. A full version of the study can be found here.




About Columbia Nursing:

Columbia University School of Nursing is part of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, which also includes the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Dental Medicine. With close to 100 full-time faculty and 600 students, the School of Nursing is dedicated to educating the next generation of nurse leaders in education, research, and clinical care. The School has pioneered advanced practice nursing curricula and continues to define the role of nursing and nursing research through its PhD program which prepares nurse scientists, and its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the first clinical practice doctorate in the nation. Among the clinical practice areas shaped by the School’s research are the reduction of infectious disease and the use of health care informatics to improve health and health care. For more information, please visit: