Background: Despite important advances in antiretroviral therapy, anemia remains a problem in many HIV-infected patients. Although the incidence of anemia in these patients has decreased, its prevalence appears to have stabilized or decreased only slightly. Anemia has a deleterious effect on both functional capacity and quality of life, and has been associated with shortened survival.
Objective: The Anemia in HIV Working Group, an expert panel of physicians and researchers involved in the care of HIV-infected patients, met to determine the impact of anemia in this patient population; to develop practice strategies for the clinician treating HIV-infected patients with anemia; and to identify future research directions.
Methods: The proposed practice strategies are based on results of the available clinical trials (as identified through a MEDLINE search), a review of the literature, and the clinical experience and expert opinion of the panel. The present report is based on meetings held in February and June of 1998; as further experience with various treatment options accumulates and the impact of highly active antiretroviral therapy becomes clearer, the panel will reconvene to develop evidence-based guidelines.
Results: The working group considers HIV-associated anemia to be an important contributor to the morbidity and mortality of this infection. Recent reports indicate that recovery from anemia is associated with improved quality of life and survival.
Conclusions: As HIV-infected persons live longer, maintaining quality of life becomes an increasingly important goal of treatment. When planning treatment strategies, clinicians should consider the quality-of-life decrement caused by anemia. Transfusions should be used when rapid recovery is required, and underlying conditions causing anemia should be treated, if possible. Recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) therapy is appropriate in certain HIV-infected persons and should be considered to maintain hemoglobin concentrations. The target hemoglobin level is 12 g/dL for men and 11 g/dL for women. Weekly rHuEPO dosing is suggested, initiated at 40,000 U, as has been established in patients with cancer.