NYMC Faculty Publications


Frequent Occurrence of Pain and Prescription Opioid Use for Treatment of Pain Among Women with and at Risk for HIV Infection

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June 2018


Epidemiology and Community Health


Pain is frequent and underreported among HIV+ women. We determined occurrence and severity of pain, and types of pain treatments used among HIV+ and HIV- women. Cross-sectional analyses of pain as measured by the Brief Pain Inventory Short Form, and related pain therapies nested in the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). Multiple variable linear regression models examined differences by HIV status in pain severity and pain interference in general activity, mood, ability to walk, work, relationships with others, sleep, and enjoyment of life. Among 1393 HIV+ and 587 HIV- participants with median age 47-48 years, there was no statistically significant difference in pain reported within the past week by HIV status (HIV+ 50% vs. 49% HIV-, p = 0.70). Ratings of pain severity and interference were similar between HIV+ and HIV- women, as was receipt of pain medication (58% HIV+ vs. 56% HIV-). Pain medications most frequently used were: NSAIDS (90% HIV+, 96% HIV-), opioids (65% HIV+, 67% HIV-), topical anesthetics (46% HIV+, 56% HIV-), muscle relaxants (23% HIV+, 14% HIV-), and anticonvulsants (23% HIV+, 14% HIV-). Nearly half of predominantly low income, minority women reported pain in the past week, and two-thirds reported opioid use for pain management. The occurrence, severity, and treatment of pain did not differ by HIV status, nor did report of pain interference with mood or function. Additional research is needed to better characterize pain etiology among HIV+ women in the era of potent antiretroviral therapy, and determine the extent to which pain severity and type of medication used for pain treatment impact HIV disease outcomes.