a woman kneeling on the floor has a window in her stomach showing herself, earlier, happily eating some food.

GI Issues with HIV: IBS and GERD

Results from the 2019 HIV In America Survey showed that community members have experienced gastrointestinal (GI) issues. More so, 7 percent of people reported that they are managing IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and 10 percent are managing GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

What is known about HIV, GERD, and IBS?

GI issues are one of the most common complaints in people living with HIV. For example, one small study on people living with HIV showed that over half of patients had GERD symptoms that were frequent and/or moderate-severe in intensity.1 A different study on IBS showed that there were more cases of IBS in persons who are HIV positive compared to persons who are HIV negative.2

How are HIV, GERD, and IBS related?

More studies are needed to understand the overall relationship between HIV, IBS, and GERD. However, HIV may be related to gastrointestinal issues for a variety of reasons including inflammatory changes brought on by HIV, the presence of the virus in the GI tract, and opportunistic infections.3 Research has shown that antiretroviral therapy may help improve GI symptoms in persons with advanced immunosuppression due to HIV.3

How can I recognize the symptoms?

It is important to talk to a doctor about any GI trouble you may have. But first, a person has to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of GI disorders in order to that start a conversation with their doctor. Below is an article originally posted on our sister community, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, that can better help you understand the symptoms of IBS and GERD.


If you are like me, you suffer from both GERD and IBS. It hasn’t been a pleasant journey, but thankfully I have identified my major triggers and found medications and other lifestyle changes that help keep flare-ups from occurring. I still have my bad days, but they are much better than previous years!

What is IBS?

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is a chronic, long-term condition that includes both diarrhea and/or constipation.

Symptoms of IBS

Symptoms include, but are not limited by, bloating, gas, stomach pain, and cramping. Symptoms may come and go or be worse than previous bouts.

Some people are able to control these symptoms with diet, exercise, medications, and other lifestyle changes, but for others, it isn’t always that easy or manageable.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, is a form of acid reflux that occurs when stomach acid runs back into your esophagus; therefore aggravating the lining. GERD is classified as mild (occurring approximately twice weekly) or moderate (occurring at least once weekly).

Symptoms of GERD

Symptoms can include chest pain, difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation in your chest that may worsen after eating or when lying down, the feeling that a lump is in your throat, and regurgitation.

Like IBS, GERD symptoms are often controlled by diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Medications and even surgery may be required.4

Are IBS and GERD related?

IBS and GERD are both considered chronic conditions. While the two share similar disease mechanisms, a direct correlation is not readily understood.

According to some experts, they believe the correlation between the two consists of poor muscle functions in the intestinal tract. It has also been noted that people that suffer from both IBS and GERD have more sleeping difficulties and stomach pain flare-ups than those who just have one of the conditions alone.4

A research study that has been conducted included over 6000 patients with gastrointestinal-related difficulties and researchers found that more than 63 percent of IBS patients had GERD and nearly 34 percent of GERD patients had IBS. Another study also concluded that if you have GERD, there is a 3.5 times greater risk of developing IBS. It was also found that women have a greater risk than men of getting IBS if they already have GERD.5,6

Managing IBS and GERD symptoms

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure which is worse some days! Seems like if it’s not IBS symptoms, then it is GERD symptoms! I’m constantly regretting eating foods that I know I shouldn’t eat, although I know my triggers.

I know there are so many of us out there that suffers from both of these conditions. The promising factor is that there is definitely help out there. We just need to be consistent and support each other in the process!

The HIV in America 2019 survey was conducted online from July through September of 2019. A total of 400 people completed the survey.

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