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Menopause and HIV

how hiv is passed on

Thanks to effective treatment, many women living with HIV can expect to have a normal lifespan, and will therefore go through the menopause.

Will having HIV affect my menopause?

Thanks to effective treatment, many women living with HIV can expect to have a normal lifespan. That means most women will go through the menopause, which is the ending of your menstrual cycle (periods).

In the general population, women of African ethnicity and women who have injected drugs are likely to have an earlier menopause than other women.

There is also some evidence that women living with HIV may start the menopause a few years earlier than women without HIV, especially women with a low CD4 count.

Will I need medical treatment for the menopause?

If you have some bleeding after the menopause, you should tell your doctor as this could be a symptom of another health problem.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be prescribed to prevent or lessen some symptoms of menopause, or to treat the early onset of menopause. HRT is generally not used as a long-term treatment because it may increase the risk of developing other conditions such as breast cancer.

HRT can be taken with HIV treatment; ask your doctor if there are any interactions between HRT and the anti-HIV drugs you are on. HIV clinics don’t provide HRT, so you will need to have it prescribed by your GP or another doctor.

How should I look after my health after the menopause?

Everyone loses bone density as they get older, but this process speeds up in women who have gone through the menopause because they have lower levels of the hormone oestrogen. HIV infection and antiretroviral treatment can also both cause bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis. Eating well and exercise can both reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and help deal with bone loss if it occurs.

Calcium and vitamin D are essential to bone formation, so you should try to get plenty of both. Many foods are rich in calcium:

  • milk and other dairy products,
  • leafy green vegetables such as kale and broccoli,
  • beans such as soy and baked beans,
  • nuts and sesame seeds
  • many types of fish, such as salmon and sardines.

You get most of your vitamin D from sunlight on your skin but it is also found in oily fish and eggs, as well as in foods that are specially fortified, such as some breakfast cereals. There is no clear evidence that vitamin D supplements help reduce the risk of bone loss in people living with HIV.

Resistance, or weight-bearing, exercise can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and help once it is diagnosed by encouraging new bone to grow.

Will my HIV treatment still be as effective?

In the past, there was some concern that older women may not respond as well to HIV treatment. However, it is now known that treatment works just as well in women who have gone through the menopause as it does in younger women.

More help and information:

If you have questions about symptoms of the menopause, or possible interactions between treatments, talk to your healthcare team.

If you live in Brighton, Bristol, London, Manchester or the West Midlands, our Health Wealth and Happiness Project for over 50s living with HIV might be for you.

You could also ask about attending a menopause clinic. Call THT Direct on 0808 802 1221 for a referral.

Next: Menstruation and HIV ››

‹‹ Back to: HIV and cognitive problems



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 22/7/2014 by R. Bignami

Date due for the next review: 31/10/2017

Content Author: S. Corkery, NAM

Current Owner: G. Hughson, NAM

More information:

Patterson KB et al. Treatment responses in antiretroviral treatment-naïve premonpausal and postmenopausal HIV-1-infected women: an analysis from AIDS Clinical Trials Group Studies. Clin Infect Dis 49 (online edition), 2009.

Yin MT et al. Low bone mass and high bone turnover in postmenopausal HIV-infected women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab (advance online publication, January 2010) doi:10.1210/jc.2009-0708.

de Pommerol M et al. Menopause and HIV: age at onset and associated factors, ANRS CO3 Aquitaine Cohort. Fifth IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment, and Prevention, Cape Town, abstract CDB009, 2009.

Gold E et al. Factors Associated with Age at Natural Menopause in a Multiethnic Sample of Midlife Women Am. J. Epidemiol. (2001) 153 (9): 865-874. doi: 10.1093/aje/153.9.865.

Childs K et al. Effects of vitamin D deficiency and combination antiretroviral therapy on bone in HIV-positive patients. AIDS 26: 253-62, 2012

Menopause, NHS Choices