Occurrence and characteristics of chronic pain in a community-based cohort of indigent adults living with HIV infection

Christine Miaskowski, Joanne M. Penko, David Guzman, Jennifer E. Mattson, David R. Bangsberg, Margot B. Kushel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Pain is common among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), but little is known about chronic pain in socioeconomically disadvantaged HIV-infected populations with high rates of substance abuse in the postantiretroviral era. This cross-sectional study describes the occurrence and characteristics of pain in a community-based cohort of 296 indigent PLWHA. Participants completed questionnaires about sociodemographics, substance use, depression, and pain. Cut-point analysis was used to generate categories of pain severity. Of the 270 participants who reported pain or the use of a pain medication in the past week, 8.2% had mild pain, 38.1% had moderate pain, and 53.7% had severe pain. Female sex and less education were associated with more severe pain. Depression was more common among participants with severe pain than among those with mild pain. Increasing pain severity was associated with daily pain and with chronic pain. Over half of the participants reported having a prescription for an opioid analgesic. Findings from this study suggest that chronic pain is a significant problem in this high risk, socioeconomically disadvantaged group of patients with HIV disease and high rates of previous or concurrent use of illicit drugs. Perspective: This article presents epidemiological data showing that unrelieved chronic pain is a significant problem for indigent people living with HIV. Participants reported pain severity similar to those with metastatic cancer. Despite high rates of substance use disorders, approximately half received prescriptions for opioid analgesics, although few for long-acting agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1004-1016
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • chronic pain
  • opioid analgesics
  • pain qualities
  • substance use disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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