Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among gay men with HIV, suggests a recent study published in AIDS Patient Care and STDs*. It found that a third of the HIV-positive gay men surveyed qualified for a PTSD diagnosis and 65% 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”.

In people with HIV, receiving medical treatment, experiencing physical symptoms, and witnessing HIV-related death were most associated with PTSD symptoms.

Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes at GMFA, the gay men’s health charity, comments on the study: “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. There is the constant knowledge that there will always be the possibility of them infecting partners. 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 positive, and how starting medication in itself is 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.”

*Anthony C. Theuninck, Nick Lake, Stuart Gibson. AIDS Patient Care and STDs. August 2010, 24(8): 485-491. doi:10.1089/apc.2009.0231.

For a full report on the study, visit: https://www.poz.com/article/hiv-pstd-stress-18966-5087

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