Noninfectious Diarrhea in HIV Seropositive Individuals: a Review of Prevalence Rates, Etiology, and Management in the Era of Combination Antiretroviral Therapy

Patrick G. Clay, Rustin D. Crutchley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Introduction: Diarrhea poses a substantial burden for patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), negatively impacting quality-of-life (QoL) and adherence to antiretroviral therapy. During the combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) era, as incidence of opportunistic infection as a cause of diarrhea decreased, incidence of noninfectious diarrhea (including diarrhea as an adverse event [AE] of cART and HIV enteropathy) increased proportionately. A literature search was conducted for information on prevalence, etiology, and treatment options for noninfectious diarrhea in patients with HIV.

Results: For marketed antiretroviral therapies, up to 28% of patients live with >4 loose or watery stools per day. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require pharmaceutical manufacturers to include, within approved prescribing information, prevalence rates for all grades of diarrhea. Traditionally, noninfectious diarrhea management focused on avoiding use of diarrhea-associated cART; symptom management (nonpharmacologic and/or pharmacologic); and, as a last resort, changing cART. Examining the evidence upon which this approach is based reveals that most strategies rely upon anecdotal information and case reports. This review summarizes the literature and updates clinicians on the most recent options for management of noninfectious diarrhea in patients with HIV.

Conclusion: Diarrhea in patients with HIV is a significant unmet clinical need that contributes to worsening QoL and complicates medical management. Approaching management using a stepwise method of nonpharmacologic (diet), nonprescription (over-the-counter) and, finally, prescription agent changes (modification of cART or addition of an evidence-based antidiarrheal) appears reasonable, despite a lack of clear scientific evidence to support the initial two steps of this approach. If diet modifications, including psyllium and fiber introduction, fail to resolve noninfectious diarrhea in patients with HIV, loperamide followed by crofelemer should be considered. Clinicians are encouraged to review the most recent literature, not rely upon prescribing information. Continued vigilance by HIV providers to the presence of gastrointestinal AEs, even in patients taking the most recently approved antiretroviral agents, is warranted. Additional research is justified in identifying the etiology and management of HIV-associated diarrhea in patients on successful cART regimens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-122
Number of pages20
JournalInfectious Diseases and Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 18 Dec 2014


  • Antiretroviral therapy
  • Crofelemer
  • Diarrhea
  • Etiology
  • HIV enteropathy
  • Loose stools
  • Loperamide
  • Management
  • Prevalence


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