PhD Improves Quality of Life for HIV Infected Individuals Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy
Progressive resistance training (PRT) and whey protein intake is strongly recommended for HIV infected individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), according to a study by Dr Takshita Sookan who graduated with a Sports Science PhD.
Sookan said patients on ART were at risk to develop complications related to body composition changes, inflammation and cardiometabolic risk. ‘These conditions increase the possibility of functional decline, co-morbidities and mortality. Resistance training in combination with protein-containing nutrition is effective in improving these conditions,’ her study confirmed.
Sookan said since the advent of ART, patients with HIV have longer life expectancies. However, treatment does not fully restore immune health and consequently, a number of inflammation-associated and/or immunodeficiency complications such as, HIV associated lipodystrophy, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other metabolic complications are increasing. Cumulative toxicities from exposure to ART causes clinically-relevant metabolic disturbances.
Supervised by the internationally acclaimed Professor, Andrew McKune, the study demonstrated that a PRT programme can decrease IL-10. ‘Elevated levels of this Th2 cytokine are associated with disease progression in HIV-infected individuals,’ Sookan explained, adding that further investigation is required to understand the effect this decrease has on disease progression in this population.
Quality of life (QOL) components improved in ART treated HIV-infected individuals that participated in the study’s PRT programme at King Edward VIII Hospital’s Pilani/Family Clinic. ‘Changes were seen in the physical, social and environmental domains. This could be attributed to positive social and environmental effects of exercise programmes. Exercise training is an inexpensive and efficacious strategy for improving QOL in this population with an impact on other facets of their lives,’ Sookan said.
Sookan said: ‘Working with the participants in the study was truly humbling. Their strength through adversity is inspirational. There were many administrative and logistic issues with the study but I am grateful to have completed it with the help of many, many people who selflessly gave me their time and effort. It has renewed my faith in humanity.’
Her PhD was supported by numerous scholarships, and Masters obtained cum laude, for which she felt very grateful. ‘My mother is extremely proud and happy that I have finally reached the end of this journey. My extended family and friends have made this time very special by celebrating this achievement with me,’ she said.
She also thanked every person and collaborator that assisted her in her project. ‘Your contribution has been invaluable; particularly my supervisor, Professor Andrew McKune, I couldn’t have completed this without him.’
Sookan resumed her position as a Lecturer in the Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences. ‘I am currently finalising research collaborations with international researchers and am excited to undertake new research.’
Sookan has also taken up a role in the Biokinetics Association of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Charter and is responsible for continued educational programmes for the region. ‘I am also interested in continuing my work with the Biomedical Research Ethics Committee. The role of ethics in research is crucial and opens up a new avenue of research that I am interested in,’ she said.