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A qualitative study of the experience and impact of neuropathic pain in people living with HIV

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Whitney Scott, Maite Garcia Calderon Mendoza Del Solar, Harriet Kemp, Lance M McCracken, Amanda C de C Williams, Andrew Sc Rice

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Dec 2019


King's Authors


Painful distal symmetrical polyneuropathy is common in HIV and is associated with reduced quality of life. Research has not explored the experience of neuropathic pain in people with HIV from a person-centred perspective. Therefore, a qualitative interview study was conducted to more deeply understand the experience and impact of neuropathic pain in this population. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 people with HIV and peripheral neuropathic pain symptoms. Interviews explored the impact of pain and participants' pain management strategies. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. Four themes and 11 subthemes were identified. Theme one reflects the complex characterisation of neuropathic pain, including the perceived unusual nature of this pain and diagnostic uncertainty. Theme two centred on the interconnected impacts of pain on mood and functioning and includes how pain disrupts relationships and threatens social inclusion. Theme three reflects the struggle for pain relief, including participants' attempts to 'exhaust all options' and limited success in finding lasting relief. The final theme describes how pain management is complicated by living with HIV; this theme includes the influence of HIV stigma on pain communication and pain as an unwanted reminder of HIV. These data support the relevance of investigating and targeting psychosocial factors to manage neuropathic pain in HIV.

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