The study found that that a third of the HIV-positive gay men surveyed qualified for a PTSD diagnosis and that 65 per cent met the criteria for having experienced a traumatic event.
According to a report of the study on aidsmeds.com, PTSD is a “frequently debilitating psychological disorder stemming from experiencing or witnessing traumatic events”. Symptoms include depression and anxiety, which can “significantly affect a person’s ability to function in life and experience pleasure”.
The three HIV-related events that most strongly predicted developing PTSD were: experiencing physical symptoms, witnessing HIV-related death and, unexpectedly, receiving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.
The survey revealed that 55 per cent of those that took part in the study, rated being diagnosed with HIV as a traumatic event.
Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes at GMFA said: “With advances in treatment, having HIV is thankfully not the death sentence it once was. However, this study is a sharp reminder of the huge emotional stress that HIV infection can cause.
“If you become infected, you will probably have to take medication every day for the rest of your life to keep your immune system functioning. In addition to anxieties over treatment failure, or fear of how it will affect their social and work lives, people with HIV have to deal with stigmatisation.”
“If they discuss their status with partners, they face rejection. If they don’t discuss their status, they are vilified.”
“Amongst my own friends, I see how devastating it can be to be diagnosed HIV-positive, and how starting medication is itself often traumatic. We need to get to a point where, as gay men, we are supportive of each other and where we can openly discuss HIV status and safer sex.”
The authors of the report recommend that doctors become familiar with the diagnostic criteria of PTSD and be on the lookout for symptoms in their patients. Given previous findings about the increased likelihood for poor adherence among people with PTSD, this may be critical because of treatment implications.
Image courtesy of GMFA
Click here to read the finding at AIDS Patient Care and STDs: www.liebertonline.com
For a full report on the study visit: www.aidsmeds.com