Menopause and HIV

Menopause is part of the normal ageing process

Menopausal symptoms can be more noticeable and start earlier in people living with HIV.

Key things to know

There are several things to know if you have HIV and experience menopausal symptoms.
  • There are treatments available that can relieve your menopausal symptoms, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
  • HRT does not make your HIV medication less effective, but the medications may interact. It is important that your GP knows that you are on HIV treatment before prescribing HRT.
  • To keep healthy during and after menopause, make sure you eat well, exercise and check your bone health every once in a while.

Whatever you’re going through, we are here to support you – get in touch with us for information and advice.

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What is menopause?

Menopause happens to all people who have ovaries, and is caused by natural changes to your body and hormones as you age. During menopause, your body stops producing eggs and your period stops. Some people may experience symptoms during menopause, while others do not.


Menopause in people living with HIV

Research suggests that people living with HIV are more likely to develop menopausal symptoms earlier. Symptoms may also be more noticeable than they are for people who don’t have HIV.

Menopausal symptoms include:

  • Physical symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats and joint and muscle pain;
  • Sexual symptoms, such as reduced interest in sex, vaginal dryness, urinary tract symptoms;
  • Psychological symptoms, such as mood changes, depression, anxiety and fatigue.


Diagnosing menopause

There aren’t any specific tests to diagnose menopause, but your GP will usually be able to tell based on your age and symptoms. You can also discuss your symptoms with your HIV clinic as they will be able to advise and provide support specifically for people living with HIV.


HIV and hormone replacement therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often used to relieve the symptoms of menopause and to improve your quality of life.

There are some risks associated with HRT, but these are thought to be the same for both people living with, and without, HIV. Your doctor will discuss these risks with you if you decide to start HRT.

HRT doesn’t make HIV treatment less effective, but some HIV medication can interact with HRT. Since HRT is usually prescribed by your doctor, and they might not be aware of your HIV status, it is important to tell them that you receive HIV treatment.


Menopause and sex

All women experience menopause differently, and many women experience changes in their sex life as they go through the menopause.

Some women may enjoy sex more because they no longer worry about what other people think and feel a sense of freedom as they age. Others may find they no longer feel sexual desire or no longer want to have sex and that can be really upsetting.

There are lots of reasons why you might not want to have sex during menopause.

This might include:

  • vaginal dryness and discomfort that makes penetrative sex uncomfortable or painful
  • reduced sex drive due to decreased hormones
  • night sweats that affect your sleep and energy for sex
  • emotional changes that can make you feel too stressed or upset for sex


Menopause and bone health

Both HIV and menopause can have an effect on your bone health. To prevent bone problems, such as osteoporosis, your HIV clinic should perform semi-regular testing. For more information, read NAM’s page on Bone problems and HIV.

Looking for support?

If you are living with HIV and need support understanding a new diagnosis, treatment or navigating life with HIV, we are here to help. Get in touch with us by filling out our contact form.

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