Prevalence of anemia among people living with HIV: A systematic review and meta-analysis


Background: Anemia is the most frequent hematologic abnormality among people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (PLWHIV) and is associated with HIV disease progression and higher risk of mortality of the patients. However, there is a wide variation of the prevalence of anemia among PLWHIV in different clinical settings. We aimed to obtain more precise estimates of prevalence of anemia and severity of anemia among PLWHIV, which may be important for patients, caregivers, researchers and health policy-makers.

Methods: We systematically searched PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library for original articles reporting the prevalence of anemia defined using age and sex-specific hemoglobin levels according to World Health Organization criteria among PLWHIV from inception to August 31, 2021. We used DerSimonian-Laird random-effects meta-analyses to obtain pooled prevalence and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of anemia and severity of anemia among PLWHIV. A univariable meta-regression has been conducted to assess the association between anemia prevalence and study characteristics, including study design, median year of sampling, geographical region, World Bank Income level, and proportion of antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Findings: We included 63 observational studies covering 110,113 PLWHIV. The pooled prevalence of anemia was 39.7% (95% CI: 31.4%–48.0%) for children living with HIV aged <15 years, 46.6% (95% CI: 41.9%–51.4%) for adults (men and non-pregnant women) living with HIV aged ≥15 years, and 48.6% (95% CI: 41.6%–55.6%) for pregnant women living with HIV. Among adults living with HIV, the pooled prevalence of severity of anemia was 21.6% (95% CI: 19.9%–23.3%), 22.6% (95% CI: 14.8%–30.4%), and 6.2% (95% CI: 4.4%–8.1%) for mild, moderate and severe anemia, respectively. Compared with East Africa, anemia prevalence among adults living with HIV was higher in Southern Africa (p = 0.033).

Interpretation: Anemia is prevalent among PLWHIV. Thus, policies, strategies, and programs should be considered to identify the predictors of anemia among PLWHIV to reduce the burden of anemia among patients in the ART era.


Cao G, Wang Y, Wu Y, Jing W, Liu J, Liu M




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Epidemiology
  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Co-morbidities
    • Other


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