Background. HIV-associated sensory neuropathy (HIV-SN) is a common and frequently painful complication of HIV infection and its
treatment. However, few data exist describing the frequency, type and dosage of pain medications patients are receiving in the clinic setting
to manage the painful symptoms of HIV-SN.
Objective. To report on analgesic prescription for painful HIV-SN and factors influencing that prescription in adults on combination
Methods. Using validated case ascertainment criteria to identify patients with painful HIV-SN, we recruited 130 HIV-positive patients
with painful HIV-SN at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa. Demographic and clinical data (including current
analgesic use) were collected on direct questioning of the patients and review of the medical files.
Results. We found significant associations, of moderate effect size, between higher pain intensity and lower CD4 T-cell counts with
prescription of analgesic therapy. Factors previously identified as predicting analgesic treatment in HIV-positive individuals (age, gender,
level of education) were not associated with analgesic use here. Consistent with national guidelines, amitriptyline was the most commonly
used agent, either alone or in combination therapy. Importantly, we also found that despite the relatively high analgesic treatment rate in
this setting, the majority of patients described their current level of HIV-SN pain as moderate or severe.
Conclusion. Our findings highlight the urgent need for both better analgesic options for HIV-SN pain treatment and ongoing training and
support of clinicians managing this common and debilitating condition.