Center on Stress and Health

HIV/AIDS, and Stress and Trauma

Israelski, D. M., D. E. Prentiss, S. Lubega, G. Balmas, P. Garcia, M. Muhammad, S. Cummings and C. Koopman (2007). "Psychiatric co-morbidity in vulnerable populations receiving primary care for HIV/AIDS." AIDS Care 19(2): 220-5.
Considerable evidence suggests that people with HIV disease are significantly more distressed than the general population, yet psychiatric disorders are commonly under-detected in HIV care settings. This study examines the prevalence of three stress-related psychiatric diagnoses--depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and acute stress disorder (ASD), among a vulnerable population of HIV-infected patients. Among approximately 350 patients attending two county-based HIV primary care clinics, 210 participants were screened for diagnostic symptom criteria for depression, PTSD, and ASD. Standardized screening measures used to assess for these disorders included the Beck Depression Inventory, the Posttraumatic Stress Checklist, and the Stanford Acute Stress Questionnaire. High percentages of HIV-infected patients met screening criteria for depression (38 per cent), PTSD (34 per cent), and ASD (43 per cent). Thirty eight percent screened positively for two or more disorders. Women were more likely to meet symptom criteria for ASD than men (55 per cent vs. 38 per cent, OR=1.94, CI95 per cent=1.1-3.5). ASD was detected more commonly among African-American and white participants (51 per cent and 50 per cent respectively), compared with other ethnic groups. Latinos were least likely to express symptoms of ASD (OR=0.52, CI95 per cent=0.29-0.96). Of the 118 patients with at least one of these disorders, 51 (43 per cent) reported receiving no concurrent mental health treatment. Patients with HIV/AIDS who receive public healthcare are likely to have high rates of acute and posttraumatic stress disorders and depression. These data suggest that current clinical practices could be improved with the use of appropriate tools and procedures to screen and diagnose mental health disorders in populations with HIV/AIDS.

Remien, R. H., T. Exner, R. M. Kertzner, A. A. Ehrhardt, M. J. Rotheram-Borus, M. O. Johnson, L. S. Weinhardt, L. E. Kittel, R. B. Goldstein, R. M. Pinto, S. F. Morin, M. A. Chesney, M. Lightfoot, C. Gore-Felton, B. Dodge and J. A. Kelly (2006). "Depressive symptomatology among HIV-positive women in the era of HAART: a stress and coping model." Am J Community Psychol 38(3-4): 275-85.
OBJECTIVE: An enhanced stress and coping model was used to explain depression among HIV-positive women in healthcare and community settings where highly active anti-retroviral treatment (HAART) was commonplace. METHOD: HIV-infected women in four cities (N=978) were assessed, cross-sectionally, for mental and physical health, stress, social support, and other background factors. RESULTS: Self-reported level of depressive symptomatology was high. Number of physical symptoms, illness intrusiveness, and perceived stress were positively associated with depressed mood, while coping self-efficacy and social support were negatively associated. Stress mediated the effect of health status on depression and coping self-efficacy mediated the effect of psychosocial resources on depression. Our enhanced stress and coping model accounted for 52% of variance in depressive symtpomatology. CONCLUSIONS: Interventions focused on improving coping self-efficacy, bolstering social supports, and decreasing stress in the lives of HIV-positive women may help to reduce the negative effects of HIV disease on mood.

Gore-Felton, C., C. Koopman, D. Spiegel, M. Vosvick, M. Brondino and A. Winningham (2006). "Effects of quality of life and coping on depression among adults living with HIV/AIDS." J Health Psychol 11(5): 711-29.
This prospective study examined the effect of maladaptive coping strategies and psychological quality of life (QOL) on depression at two time points in a diverse sample of persons living with HIV/AIDS (N = 85). The use of maladaptive coping strategies to deal with the stress of living with HIV/AIDS, particularly engaging in various kinds of avoidant behaviors, was significantly associated with greater depression at baseline and increased depression at three months. QOL was the single most important predictor of depression. In an effort to develop effective clinical methods aimed at decreasing depression among adults living with HIV, future studies need to focus on improving quality of life and increasing adaptive coping strategies associated with the stress of living with HIV/AIDS.

Gore-Felton, C., M. J. Rotheram-Borus, L. S. Weinhardt, J. A. Kelly, M. Lightfoot, S. B. Kirshenbaum, M. O. Johnson, M. A. Chesney, S. L. Catz, A. A. Ehrhardt, R. H. Remien and S. F. Morin (2005). "The Healthy Living Project: an individually tailored, multidimensional intervention for HIV-infected persons." AIDS Educ Prev 17(1 Suppl A): 21-39.
The NIMH Healthy Living Project (HLP), a randomized behavioral intervention trial for people living with HIV, enrolled 943 individuals, including women, heterosexual men, injection drug users, and men who have sex with men from Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, and San Francisco. The intervention, which is based on qualitative formative research and Ewart's Social Action Theory, addresses three interrelated aspects of living with HIV: stress and coping, transmission risk behavior, and medication adherence. Fifteen 90-minute structured sessions, divided into 3 modules of five sessions each, are delivered to individuals. Sessions are tailored to individuals within a structure that uses role-plays, problem solving, and goal setting techniques. A 'Life Project'--or overarching goal related to personal striving-provides continuity throughout sessions. Because this is an ongoing project with efficacy yet to be established, we do not report intervention outcomes. However, the intervention was designed to be useful for prevention case management, settings where repeated one-on-one contact is possible, and where a structured but highly individualized intervention approach is desired.

Ashton, E., M. Vosvick, M. Chesney, C. Gore-Felton, C. Koopman, K. O'Shea, J. Maldonado, M. H. Bachmann, D. Israelski, J. Flamm and D. Spiegel (2005). "Social support and maladaptive coping as predictors of the change in physical health symptoms among persons living with HIV/AIDS." AIDS Patient Care STDS 19(9): 587-98.
This study examined social support and maladaptive coping as predictors of HIV-related health symptoms. Sixty-five men and women living with HIV/AIDS completed baseline measures assessing coping strategies, social support, and HIV-related health symptoms. The sample was primarily low-income and diverse with respect to gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Three, 6, and 12 months after completing baseline assessments, physical health symptoms associated with HIV disease were assessed. After controlling for demographic characteristics, CD4 T-cell count, and baseline HIV-related health symptoms, individuals reporting lower increase in HIV-related health symptoms used less venting (expressing emotional distress) as a strategy for coping with HIV. However, when satisfaction with social support was added to the model, the use of this coping strategy was no longer significant, and individuals reporting more satisfying social support were more likely to report lower increase in their HIV-related health symptoms, suggesting that social support is a robust predictor of health outcomes over time independent of coping style and baseline medical status. These findings provide further evidence that social support can buffer deleterious health outcomes among individuals with a chronic illness. Future research needs to examine mediating pathways that can explain this relationship.

Vosvick, M., C. Gore-Felton, E. Ashton, C. Koopman, T. Fluery, D. Israelski and D. Spiegel (2004). "Sleep disturbances among HIV-positive adults: the role of pain, stress, and social support." J Psychosom Res 57(5): 459-63.
OBJECTIVE: Investigate the relationships between pain, stress, social support, and sleep disturbance among a diverse sample of HIV-positive adults. METHOD: Participants (N = 146) completed self-report measures on pain, stress, social support, and sleep disturbance. CD4 T-cell count was obtained from medical records. RESULTS: Greater pain and stress were associated with greater sleep disturbance. Greater assistance from friends was associated with greater sleep disturbance, whereas greater understanding from friends regarding participants' HIV-related stress was associated with less sleep disturbance. CONCLUSION: As expected, pain was significantly associated with sleep disturbance. Additionally, psychosocial variables were strongly associated with sleep. The type of support from friends differentiated whether the support was positively or negatively associated with sleep problems. Social support, depending on the type, may not always be helpful for adults living with HIV/AIDS. Future studies need to examine factors that may mediate the relationship between psychosocial constructs and healthy sleep.

Kalichman, S. C., C. Gore-Felton, E. Benotsch, M. Cage and D. Rompa (2004). "Trauma symptoms, sexual behaviors, and substance abuse: correlates of childhood sexual abuse and HIV risks among men who have sex with men." J Child Sex Abus 13(1): 1-15.
Childhood sexual abuse is associated with high-risk sexual behavior in men who have sex with men. This study examined psychological and behavioral correlates of HIV risk behavior associated with childhood sexual abuse in a sample of men who have sex with men. Men attending a large gay pride event (N = 647) completed anonymous surveys that assessed demographic characteristics, childhood sexual abuse history, symptoms of dissociation and trauma-related anxiety, borderline personality characteristics, substance use, and sexual risk behavior. Results indicated that men who have a history of childhood sexual abuse were more likely to: engage in high-risk sexual behavior (i.e., unprotected receptive anal intercourse), trade sex for money or drugs, report being HIV positive, and experience non-sexual relationship violence. Results of this study extend previous research to show that men who have sex with men and who have a history of child sexual abuse are more likely to be at high risk for HIV infection.

Vosvick, M., C. Koopman, C. Gore-Felton, C. Thoresen, J. Krumboltz and D. Spiegel (2003). "Relationship of functional quality of life to strategies for coping with the stress of living with HIV/AIDS." Psychosomatics 44(1): 51-8.
The authors examined factors associated with four dimensions of functional quality of life (physical functioning, energy/fatigue, social functioning, and role functioning) in 142 men and women living with HIV/AIDS. Participants completed the Brief COPE inventory and the Medical Outcomes Study Health Survey, with HIV-relevant items added. Greater use of maladaptive coping strategies was associated with lower levels of energy and social functioning. Pain severe enough to interfere with daily living tasks was associated with a lower level of functional quality of life on all four quality of life dimensions. Interventions aimed at developing adaptive coping strategies and improving pain management may improve functional aspects of quality of life in persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Power, R., C. Koopman, J. Volk, D. M. Israelski, L. Stone, M. A. Chesney and D. Spiegel (2003). "Social support, substance use, and denial in relationship to antiretroviral treatment adherence among HIV-infected persons." AIDS Patient Care STDS 17(5): 245-52.
This study examined the relationship of adherence to antiretroviral treatment with three types of social support (partner, friends, and family) and use of two coping strategies (denial and substance use). Participants were 73 men and women with HIV infection drawn from a larger sample of 186 clinical trial patients. Based on inclusion criteria, parent trial participants taking antiretroviral therapies, and those with complete data on self-reported measures of adherence were considered eligible for the present study. Overall, 26% of participants were found to be nonadherent, which was defined as one or more missed doses of treatment in the prior 4-day period. Logistic regression analysis was conducted to determine associations of sociodemographic and psychosocial variables with adherence to antiretroviral regimen. Results indicated that heterosexual participants (p < 0.01) and participants of Latino ethnicity (p < 0.05) were significantly more likely to report missed medications. Perceived satisfaction with support from a partner was associated with taking antiretroviral therapy as prescribed, whereas satisfaction with support from friends and from family was not significantly related to adherence. Examination of coping strategies showed that participants reporting drug and alcohol use (p <.05) to cope with HIV-related stress were more likely to be nonadherent. These findings call for adherence interventions designed to address barriers and strengths, such as community norms or traditional cultural values, specific to certain populations. Furthermore, couple-based approaches enlisting partner support may help persons living with HIV to adhere to antiretroviral regimens.

Gore-Felton, C., M. Vosvick, T. Bendel, C. Koopman, B. Das, D. Israelski, M. Herrera, K. Litzenberg and D. Spiegel (2003). "Correlates of sexually transmitted disease infection among adults living with HIV." Int J STD AIDS 14(8): 539-46.
This study examined the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as well as the relationships between STDs and coping strategies used to deal with the stress of living with HIV among adults. The sample comprised 179 men and women, 58% were Caucasian, 54% were male, more than half (61%) were diagnosed with AIDS, 43% were heterosexual, and 39% reported an STD post-HIV diagnosis. Logistic regression analysis indicated that individuals reporting longer time elapsed since HIV diagnosis and greater use of emotion-focused coping were more likely to report STDs. There was an interaction effect between time and coping such that the less time that elapsed since HIV diagnosis and the more an individual used emotion-focused coping, the more likely they were to report an STD. Tailoring interventions to address specific stressors associated with length of time living with HIV, may be a particularly effective prevention strategy.

Martinez, A., D. Israelski, C. Walker and C. Koopman (2002). "Posttraumatic stress disorder in women attending human immunodeficiency virus outpatient clinics." AIDS Patient Care STDS 16(6): 283-91.
This study examined posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive women seeking medical care. Specifically, we examined traumatic life events, psychiatric treatment, social support, and demographic characteristics in relation to level of PTSD symptoms. We recruited and obtained informed consent from 47 ethnically diverse HIV-positive women from two HIV outpatient clinics in a county medical system. Forty-one of these women provided complete data on measures assessing demographics, traumatic life events, PTSD symptoms, social support, and psychotherapy/medical history. Analysis of the data demonstrated that a high percentage (42%) of the HIV-positive women were likely to meet criteria for full current PTSD, and an additional 22% for partial PTSD. Of the women likely with full PTSD, 59% were not receiving any psychiatric treatment, and of those likely with partial PTSD, 78% were not receiving any psychiatric treatment. Also, women reported having experienced a mean of 12 traumatic life events. As hypothesized, the level of PTSD was significantly related to the number of life events experienced (rs = 0.52, p < 0.001), and to perceived social support from friends (rs = - 0.34, p < 0.02) and family (rs = - 0.29, p < 0.05). Given the high percentages of women who were found to have experienced traumatic life events and high levels of PTSD symptoms, it seems important to assess and treat PTSD in women with HIV/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Koopman, C., C. Gore-Felton, N. Azimi, K. O'Shea, E. Ashton, R. Power, S. De Maria, D. Israelski and D. Spiegel (2002). "Acute stress reactions to recent life events among women and men living with HIV/AIDS." Int J Psychiatry Med 32(4): 361-78.
OBJECTIVE: This study examined the prevalence of acute stress reactions to recent life events among persons living with HIV/AIDS. A second aim was to investigate the relationship of acute stress reactions among HIV-infected men and women to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms to previous traumatic life events. METHOD: Participants included 64 HIV-seropositive persons (33 men and 31 women) drawn from a larger study examining the effects of group therapy on quality of life and health behavior. These individuals were assessed at baseline on demographic and medical status characteristics and (PTSD) symptoms andthen randomly assigned to either receive group therapy plus education or education alone. Three months later they were assessed for acute stress reactions to recent life events. RESULTS: Nearly a third (31.3 percent) of the participants reported levels of acute stress reactions to recent life events that met all symptom criteria for the diagnosis of acute stress disorder. However, only 9.4 percent of the respondents described a recent stressful life event that was threatening to the life or physical integrity of themselves or others. Acute stress reactions to recent life events were significantly and positively related to experiencing PTSD symptoms to prior traumatic life events. Acute stress did not differ significantly by gender, AIDS status, or whether or not participants had received 12 weeks of group therapy. CONCLUSIONS: A subset of individuals with HIV/AIDS experience high levels of acute stress reactivity to life events considered non-traumatic. HIV-infected individuals who react strongly to ongoing life stressors are more likely to have developed PTSD symptoms in response to previous traumatic life events.

Catz, S. L., C. Gore-Felton and J. B. McClure (2002). "Psychological distress among minority and low-income women living with HIV." Behav Med 28(2): 53-60.
The growing incidence of HIV infection among low-income and minority women makes it important to investigate how these women adjust to living with HIV and AIDS. Psychological distress associated with HIV infection may compound the adjustment difficulties and increase the barriers to care associated with living in poverty. The authors surveyed 100 women who were receiving HIV care at a public hospital in the southeastern United States on measures of depression, anxiety, life stress, social support, and coping; they also assessed demographic and medical characteristics of the sample. Participants' annual incomes were low (87% < $10,000), and most participants were minorities (84% African American). Their levels of depression, stress, and anxiety symptoms were elevated relative to community norms. Greater anxiety and depression symptoms were associated with women who reported higher stress, using fewer active coping strategies, and perceiving less social support (ps < .001).

Gore-Felton, C., L. D. Butler and C. Koopman (2001). "HIV disease, violence, and post-traumatic stress." Focus 16(6): 5-6.

Koopman, C., C. Gore-Felton, F. Marouf, L. D. Butler, N. Field, M. Gill, X. H. Chen, D. Israelski and D. Spiegel (2000). "Relationships of perceived stress to coping, attachment and social support among HIV-positive persons." AIDS Care 12(5): 663-72.
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships of coping, attachment style and perceived social support to perceived stress within a sample of HIV-positive persons. Participants were 147 HIV-positive persons (80 men and 67 women). Multiple regression analysis was used to examine the relationships of the demographic variables, AIDS status, three coping styles, three attachment styles and perceived quality of general social support with total score on the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). PSS score was significantly associated with less income, greater use of behavioural and emotional disengagement in coping with HIV/AIDS, and less secure and more anxious attachment styles. These results indicate that HIV-positive persons who experience the greatest stress in their daily lives are those with lower incomes, those who disengage behaviourally/emotionally in coping with their illness, and those who approach their interpersonal relationships in a less secure or more anxious style.

Rotheram-Borus, M. J., M. Rosario, H. Reid and C. Koopman (1995). "Predicting patterns of sexual acts among homosexual and bisexual youths." Am J Psychiatry 152(4): 588-95.
OBJECTIVE: This longitudinal study examined predictors of patterns of change in HIV sexual risk acts among homosexual and bisexual adolescent males. METHOD: A consecutive series of 136 homosexual and bisexual males aged 14-19 years were recruited into the study. Subjects were predominantly Hispanic (51%) and African American (31%) and seeking services at a homosexual-identified community-based agency in New York City. All subjects participated in an intensive HIV intervention program. Patterns of change in HIV sexual risk acts were based on assessments at four points (intake and 3, 6, and 12 months later) and were used to classify youths as demonstrating one of five patterns of anal and oral sexual acts: protected (anal: 45%, oral: 25%), improved (32% and 28%, respectively), relapse (5% and 8%), variable (8% and 15%), and unprotected (10% and 24%). Components of the health belief, self-efficacy, peer influence, coping, and distress models were assessed as predictors of these patterns. RESULTS: Protected and improved patterns of sexual risk acts were associated with low levels of anxiety, depression, and substance use and high self-esteem. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that HIV interventions must address non-HIV-related issues confronting youths in difficult life circumstances, particularly emotional distress and the role of peer networks for homosexual and bisexual youths.

Koopman, C., M. J. Rotheram-Borus, L. Dobbs, M. Gwadz and J. Brown (1992). "Beliefs and behavioral intentions regarding human immunodeficiency virus testing among New York City runaways." J Adolesc Health 13(7): 576-81.
From 1988 to 1991, 139 runaways aged 11-19 years in the New York City area (n = 70 males, 69 females) were recruited from four shelters. Each runaway participated in a semistructured interview assessing beliefs and behavioral intentions regarding human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing. When asked how they would respond to being seropositive for HIV, 29% of runaways reported that they would engage in self-destructive acts and/or harm others (e.g., suicide, unprotected sex), 80% anticipated extreme distress, 47% expected difficulty securing housing and food, and 61% believed that friends were likely to avoid them. When presented with specific alternatives, fewer runaways anticipated self-destructive acts. Drug use, rather than sexual behaviors, would lead runaways to get tested for HIV. These results suggest that health-care providers must anticipate emotional distress and potential self-destructive behavior following receipt of documentation of HIV positive serostatus among runaways. Furthermore, prior to testing, youths' access to food, shelter, medical care, and social support must be secured.

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