Original Research

Factors associated with physical function capacity in an urban cohort of people living with the human immunodeficiency virus in South Africa

Ronel Roos, Hellen Myezwa, Heleen van Aswegen
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 75, No 1 | a1323 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v75i1.1323 | © 2019 Ronel Roos, Hellen Myezwa, Heleen van Aswegen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2018 | Published: 09 September 2019

About the author(s)

Ronel Roos, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Hellen Myezwa, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Heleen van Aswegen, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Effective disease management for people living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLWH) includes the encouragement of physical activity. Physical function capacity in PLWH may be influenced by a variety of factors.

Objectives: This study describes the physical function capacity as assessed with the 6-minute walk test (6MWT) of an urban cohort of PLWH and determined whether a history of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB), anthropometric measures, age and gender predicted distance walked.

Method: Secondary data collected from 84 PLWH on antiretroviral therapy were analysed. Information included 6MWT distance, anthropometric measurements and demographic profiles. Descriptive and inferential statistics were undertaken on the data. A regression analysis determined predictive factors for 6MWT distance achieved. Significance was set at a p-value of ≤ 0.05.

Results: The study consisted of 66 (78.6%) women and 18 (21.4%) men with a mean age of 39.1 (± 9.2) years. The 6MWT distance of the cohort was 544.3 (± 64.4) m with men walking further (602.8 [± 58.6] m) than women (528.3 [± 56.4] m); however, women experienced greater effort. The majority of the sample did not report a history of PTB (n = 67; 79.8%). Age, gender and anthropometric measures were associated with 6MWT distance, but of low to moderate strength. The regression equation generated included age and gender. This model was statistically significant (p < 0.00) and accounted for 34% of the total variance observed.

Conclusion: Age and gender were predictive factors of physical function capacity and women experienced greater effort.

Clinical implications: This study provides information on the physical function capacity of PLWH and a suggested 6MWT reference equation for PLWH in South Africa.


physical function capacity; HIV; 6-min walk test; pulmonary tuberculosis; exercise tolerance; reference equation


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