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Habitual physical activity levels are positively correlated with CD4 counts in an HIV-positive South African population

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In order to assess the relationship between CD4 cell count, habitual physical activity levels and functional independence in a South African adult population positive for HIV, we administered a questionnaire concerning lifestyle and physical activity. Data collection took place at an antiretroviral (ARV) roll-out site at Helen Joseph Hospital, Johannesburg. The study involved 186 HIV-positive outpatients (47 male and 139 female), with a mean age of 35.2 years, who were either taking (n = 121) or not taking (n = 65) ARV medication. We compared CD4 cell count, habitual physical activity levels (metabolic intensity in MET hours per month) and functional independence as assessed from the responses to the questionnaire. There was a positive and significant correlation between the patients' length of time on ARV medication and CD4 cell counts (p < 0.0001, r = 0.45), and between CD4 cell counts and total habitual physical activity levels (p = 0.0067, r = 0.20). Patients considering themselves functionally independent also had significantly higher CD4 cell counts (p = 0.0031). The use of ARV medication, despite the related side-effects, was associated with a higher CD4 cell count, which in this population was also associated with increased habitual physical activity levels and a greater sense of functional independence.
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