HIV/AIDS management: The roles of physiotherapy

  • M. Munishi
  • José M. Frantz
  • P. Struthers


HIV/AIDS is a major health problem that has affected many people globally and it is the primary cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 68% of the global total i.e. 22.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are in Sub-Saharan Africa. With antiretroviral therapy, PLWHA now live longer and present with various opportunistic neuro-musculo-skeletal and cardio-pulmonary conditions.

To  explore  the  global,  regional  and  local  existing  literature  concerning  knowledge, attitude  and  roles  of physiotherapy in the management of PLWHA.

A retrospective search of articles published between January 1990 and March 2008. Outcome measures: Documented information concerning physiotherapy management of PLWHA, including physiotherapists' knowledge and attitudes, based on inclusion criteria.

The search yielded 17 reviews of good or reasonable quality. Physiotherapy rehabilitation can address impairment and activity limitation. There is some evidence that aerobic training with a progressive exercise component is effective in improving the cardio-vascular system, distribution of adipose tissue and on quality of life. There is evidence that ice or dry-towel massage has a positive effect on neuropathic pain. Evidence from case studies suggests that joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, stretching, and the use of micro-current, pressure garments and orthotics may be effective. There was no evidence of the effect of other physiotherapy roles mentioned including chest physiotherapy, counseling and health education.

There is some evidence that exercise is safe and beneficial to PLWHA. Further studies are needed to determine if other physiotherapy techniques are effective for treating PLWHA.



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