Clinical Predictors of Functioning in Persons with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
To help clinicians better assess and treat functional disabilities in persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the authors estimate empirical relations among biologic and physiologic variables, symptoms, and physical functioning in persons with AIDS. The sample of 305 persons with AIDS for this cross-sectional analysis came from three sites in Boston, Massachusetts: a hospital-based group practice, a human immunodeficiency virus clinic at a city hospital, and a staff-model health maintenance organization. Physical functioning, 10 AIDS-specific symptoms, and mental health were assessed by interview. Clinical diagnoses, comorbidities, health habits such as smoking, laboratory results, and selected medication use were assessed by chart review. Significant predictors of physical functioning (P < 0.01, R2 =.58) in a multivariable regression model included energy/fatigue, neurologic symptoms, fever symptoms, a lower hemoglobin level, and current non-pneumonia bacterial infection. Ninety-six percent of the explained variance in physical functioning was accounted for by three symptom complexes: energy/fatigue, neurologic symptoms, and fever symptoms. Significant predictors of energy/fatigue in multivariable models included poorer mental health, lower white blood cell count, longer time since diagnosis, and weight loss (P < 0.01, R2 =.36). Significant predictors of neurologic symptoms included poorer mental health, weight loss, and no zidovudine use (P < 0.001, R2 =.30). Predictors of fever symptoms included poorer mental health, no zidovudine use, weight loss, and history of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (P < 0.05, R2 =.25). In conclusion, symptom reports were strong predictors of physical functioning. Poorer mental health and weight loss were correlated consistently with worse symptoms, and not using zidovudine was correlated with worse neurologic and fever symptoms. These variables, and the others the authors identified, may represent mutable determinants of physical functioning in persons with AIDS, and potential targets for specific clinical interventions.