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Int J Nurs Stud. 2012 May;49(5):539-48. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2011.11.001. Epub 2011 Nov 29.

Understanding the experience of reconstructive treatments from the perspective of people who suffer from facial lipoatrophy: a qualitative study.

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University of Ottawa, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Nursing, 451 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1H 8M5.



Facial lipoatrophy has been described as the most distressing and stigmatizing expression of the lipodystrophy syndrome, a syndrome that is caused by antiretroviral combination therapy. In recent years, reconstructive treatments (such as poly-l-lactic acid and polyalkylimide) have been increasingly considered for this condition. These treatments allow for facial contours and facial fullness to be restored while being minimally invasive.


The main objective of this qualitative research was to explore and describe the experience of people who suffer from facial lipoatrophy, specifically in regard to reconstructive treatments.


A qualitative design, which incorporates explorative and descriptive attributes, was thought to be an appropriate choice for this research project. The data was collected using semi-structured interviews and was then analyzed following the principles of thematic analysis.


Over a period of three months, 11 men and 1 woman enrolled in the study which was conducted in Montreal (Quebec), Canada.


Overall, participants explained that facial lipoatrophy had forced them into a situation of intense vulnerability by making them recognizable as persons living with HIV/AIDS and discreditable in the eyes of others. In this sense, they were willing to go to great lengths to restore their facial features and regain a sense of normalcy. Findings revealed that people who suffer from facial lipoatrophy engage in a process of reconstruction to reduce the visibility and disruptiveness of their condition but face many uncertainties along the way.


While the findings of this research corroborated what has been previously stated by other researchers about the impact of reconstructive treatments, they also shed light on the consequences of not making these treatments accessible as well as the undocumented realities of those who cannot afford the recommended course of dermal fillers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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