Fatigue in HIV Illness: Relationship to Depression, Physical Limitations, and Disability

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This study was conducted to investigate the prevalence of clinical fatigue reported by gay/bisexual men at all HIV illness stages, and whether fatigue, while associated with depression, independently contributes to limitations in physical function and disability.


HIV- men, HIV+ men with CD4 counts >500, HIV+ men with CD4 counts 200 to 500, and men with AIDS were compared on prevalence of clinical fatigue, as defined by a standardized instrument. Among HIV+ men, the relationships among fatigue, depressed mood, major depressive disorder, HIV illness markers (including CD4 count and HIV RNA viral load), physical limitations, and disability were assessed at baseline and after 1 year.


The prevalence of clinical fatigue in men with CD4 counts <500 was 14%, significantly higher than HIV- men and HIV+ men with CD4 counts >500. However, fatigue was not directly correlated with CD4 count or HIV RNA. Fatigue was a chronic symptom that was associated with depressed mood, major depressive disorder, physical limitations, and disability. After 1 year, an increase in depressive symptoms predicted a small amount of variance in fatigue; however, depressive symptoms were not associated with physical limitations or disability after controlling for fatigue.


Fatigue is a chronic symptom that is more prevalent in advanced HIV illness, and which, although associated with depression, does not seem to be merely a symptom of depression. Because fatigue contributes independently to physical limitations and disability, it should be assessed and treated.

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