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Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout
HIV-Associated Rheumatic Disease Syndromes


HIV-associated rheumatic disease syndromes are a group of inflammatory musculoskeletal complications seen during the course of infection of the virus that causes AIDS. Painful joints are usually the first and most common symptom. Other rheumatic disorders – such as Reiter’s syndrome, psoriatic arthritis, polymyositis, vasculitis and fibromyalgia – can also occur.

Cause of HIV-associated rheumatic disease syndromes

The cause of HIV-associated rheumatic disease syndromes is not clearly defined. Available evidence suggests several direct and indirect causes from HIV infection.

Health impact of HIV-associated rheumatic disease syndromes

  • HIV infection afflicts about one million people in the United States.
  • 30%-70% of HIV-infected individuals may develop a rheumatic disease syndrome.
  • The presence of a rheumatic disorder worsens the prognosis of HIV infection.

Diagnosis of HIV-associated rheumatic disease syndromes

HIV-associated rheumatic disease should be suspected in any individual at high risk for HIV infection who develops painful joints or any other rheumatic disorder. The diagnosis is confirmed by the appropriate tests for HIV infection and for the rheumatic disorder.

Treatment of HIV-associated rheumatic disease syndromes

Most patients respond to conventional therapy with a combination of pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Some patients, especially those with Reiter’s syndrome and psoriatic arthritis, may not respond as well. Immunosuppressive drugs may be beneficial. Appropriate physical therapy and occupational rehabilitation are also recommended.


Rheumatologists in the United States not only first recognized the rheumatic manifestations associated with HIV infection, but have also been the leaders in improving the understanding and treatment of HIV-associated rheumatic diseases. The arthritic complaints which may affect HIV-infected individuals are best evaluated and treated by a Rheumatologist.


This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider.


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