SUCCESSFUL HAART HAS FEW PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS; HIGHLY ACTIVE
By Michael Greer
AIDS Weekly 12 March 2001
Researchers in New York have
questioned the ability of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to
improve quality of life for HIV patients.
J.R. Brechtl and colleagues found that even when HAART was effective
at improving the physical well being of patients, the treatment regimen had
little effect on the quality of their extended life.
HAART's ability to improve immune function and viral load have been
well characterized, but few studies have tried to measure the impact of
such treatment on psychological health, noted Brechtl et al. at the Terence
Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center.
Studying patients at a palliative care center, the researchers
collected information about pain and symptom severity, depression, and
psychosocial function for their report in the Journal of Pain and Symptom
While depression was alleviated to a significant degree by HAART,
other factors - particularly pain severity - were barely or not at all
improved by treatment, study data showed.
Overall, patients did not feel as though their quality of life was
improved by HAART therapy, even when clinically successful ("The use of
highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in patients with advanced HIV
infection: Impact on medical, palliative care, and quality of life
outcomes," J Pain Symptom Manage, 2001;21(1):41-51).
Treatment failure, either intolerance or death, occurred in up to 40%
of the patients studied.
"Despite [physical] improvements, the benefits of treatment on pain
and symptom distress, and psychological well-being were less clear,"
Brechtl et al. concluded. "Further research is clearly necessary to better
understand the benefits of HAART therapy in patients with advanced HIV
The corresponding author for this report is J.R. Brechtl, Terence
Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center, Dept. of Medicine, 1249 5th Avenue, New
York, NY 10029, USA.
Key points reported in this study include:
* HAART treatment does not appear to have significant benefits for the
mental health of HIV patients
* Patients did not report a quality of life improvement after HAART
* This was true even when the treatment regimen was clinically