Anemia in people on second line antiretroviral treatment in Lilongwe, Malawi: a cross-sectional study

BMC Infect Dis. 2018 Jan 15;18(1):39. doi: 10.1186/s12879-018-2952-9.


Background: Anemia is common among people living with HIV infection and is frequently associated with poor quality of life and poor prognosis. It has been well described in antiretroviral naïve individuals and those on non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based first line antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens. However there is limited information on anemia for ART experienced individuals on protease inhibitor-based second line ART regimens in resource limited settings. Our objective was to describe the prevalence and risk factors of anemia in this ART experienced population in Malawi.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study using routine facility data at two HIV clinics in Lilongwe, Malawi. The analysis included individuals receiving protease inhibitor-based second line ART. Clinical and laboratory data were collected at routine clinic visits. We used descriptive statistics, two-sample t-tests and multivariate logistic regression for data analysis.

Results: Three hundred seventy-seven records were included in this analysis (37% male, median age 41 years, median CD4 count 415 cells/μL). The prevalence of anemia was 125/377 (33.2%) - mild, moderate and severe anemia was 17.5%, 13.8%, and 1.9% respectively. Female participants had a higher prevalence than male participants (43.6% vs. 15.7%, p < 0.001). In multivariate logistic regression, female sex (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 5.3; 95% CI 2.9-9.5) and a CD4 count <200 cell/ul (aOR 3.1; 95%CI 1.6-6.0) were associated with increased risk of having anemia while a BMI ≥30 kg/m2 (aOR 0.8; 95% CI 0.6-1.0) and being on ART for more than 10 years (aOR 0.4; 95% CI 0.2-0.9) were associated with reduced risk of anemia. Being on a zidovudine- containing ART regimen was not associated with anemia.

Conclusion: Anemia is common in people on second line ART in Lilongwe, Malawi. Screening for anemia in this population would be a useful strategy; especially for female patients, those who are underweight and have a low CD4 cell counts.

Keywords: Anemia; Art; Cross-sectional; HIV; Second line.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia / chemically induced*
  • Anemia / epidemiology
  • Anti-HIV Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Malawi / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Zidovudine / adverse effects
  • Zidovudine / therapeutic use


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  • Zidovudine