Case Study

Frailty and HIV

By the end of the session, learners will be able to:

  • Choose two instruments used to evaluate frailty in HIV-infected patients.
  • Describe two health outcomes that are adversely affected by frailty.
  • Demonstrate how to counsel frail HIV-infected patients regarding prognosis and goals of care.

Suggested reading

  • American Academy of HIV Medicine (online). Assessing frailty and functional capacity. Accessed August 13, 2014.

This case is part of a case-study series on common diseases in aging HIV-infected patients. New cases will be posted monthly on our website. Users should first download the learner portion or read on below, review the suggested reading, and answer the case questions. When you’re ready to check answers, download the answer key to do so. Please contact Ken South at if you’d like more information on the series.

You are free to share, copy, or adapt the series for any purpose, even commercially, as long as you give appropriate credit and indicate if changes were made. Please see our license for more information.


Mrs. Feeble is a 70-year-old woman with end-stage-renal disease (ESRD) from hypertension on dialysis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) on 2L oxygen with recurrent pulmonary Mycobacterium Avium Intracellulare (MAI) infection failing past therapies, coronary artery disease s/p stent placement 1 year prior with congestive heart failure (ejection fraction of 40%), right hip osteoarthritis and HIV well-controlled on ART. Patient is in your clinic with her daughter who is her health care proxy for a pre-operative assessment of an elective ventral hernia repair. The daughter tells you the surgeon mentioned that Mrs. Feeble looks frail and wants her optimized before the surgery.


1. What is frailty? How do you determine if someone is frail?

2. How is frailty different in HIV-infected patients compared to the general population?

3. What is the effect of frailty on health outcomes?


Mrs. Feeble lost 20 lbs in the past 3 months due to recurrent MAI infections in her lungs. She spends most of her time at home due to weakness and fatigue, except on dialysis days when she gets transported to the dialysis center. She is unstable on her feet and usually holds on to other people when she walks outside her apartment. She feels depressed due to her decline in health and her dependence on dialysis, although she denies suicidal or homicidal ideation. She does not have pain related to the hernia or her other medical conditions.

On exam, her pulse was 78, BP 120/65, oxygen saturation 90% on 2L. Her six-minute walk distance was 300 m. Her albumin was 3.0 g/dL.

1. Is Mrs. Feeble frail? What frailty measure would you use to answer this question.

2. What would you do to optimize Mrs. Feeble for the upcoming elective surgery? How would you address her mood, nutrition, and physical function?

3. How would you counsel Mrs. Feeble’s daughter regarding the prognosis?


Purpose of this Program: The AAHIVM, ACRIA and AGS (collectively, the “Sponsors,” “we” or “us”) are sponsors of this Website and through it seek to address the unique needs and challenges that older adults of diverse populations living with HIV face as they age. However, the information in this Website is not meant to supplant the advice provided in a doctor-patient relationship.

General Disclaimer: is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.



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The American Academy of HIV Medicine is a professional organization that supports the HIV practitioner and promotes accessible, quality care for all Americans living with HIV disease. Our membership of HIV practitioners and credentialed HIV Specialists™, HIV Experts™, and HIV Pharmacists™ provide direct care to the majority of HIV patients in the US.