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J Clin Epidemiol. 2001 Dec;54 Suppl 1:S77-90.

Development and validation of a self-completed HIV symptom index.

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  • 1Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, VA Piitsburgh Healthcare System, University Drive C 11E-124 (130-U), Pittsburgh, PA 15240, USA.


Traditional, open-ended provider questions regarding patient symptoms are insensitive. Better methods are needed to measure symptoms for clinical management, patient-oriented research, and adverse drug-event reporting. Our objective was to develop and initially validate a brief, self-reported HIV symptom index tailored to patients exposed to multidrug antiretroviral therapies and protease inhibitors, and to compare the new index to existing symptom measures. The research design was a multistage design including quantitative review of existing literature, qualitative and quantitative analyses of pilot data, and quantitative analyses of a prospective sample. Statistical analyses include frequencies, chi-square tests for significance, linear and logistic regression. The subjects were from a multisite convenience sample (n = 73) within the AIDS Clinical Trials Group and a prospective sample from the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center (n = 115). Measures were patient-reported symptoms and health-related quality of life, physician-assessed disease severity, CD4 cell count, and HIV-1 RNA viral quantification. A 20-item, self-completed HIV symptom index was developed based upon prior reports of symptom frequency and bother and expert opinion. When compared with prior measures the index included more frequent and bothersome symptoms, yet was easier to use (self-report rather than provider interview). The index required less than 5 minutes to complete, achieved excellent completion rates, and was thought comprehensive and comprehensible in a convenience sample. It was further tested in a prospective sample of patients and demonstrated strong associations with physical and mental health summary scores and with disease severity. These associations were independent of CD4 cell count and HIV-1 RNA viral quantification. This 20-item HIV symptom index has demonstrated construct validity, and offers a simple and rational approach to measuring HIV symptoms for clinical management, patient-oriented research, and adverse drug reporting.

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