Highly Stressed: Stressful and Traumatic Experiences Among Individuals With HIV/AIDS in the Deep South

Among persons living with HIV infection, a history of traumatic and/or stressful experiences is prevalent "and has been consistently associated with poorer health outcomes," the authors wrote. Yet little is known about incident stressful experiences and the factors that predict such experiences in this population.

The researchers accessed data from a longitudinal study of 611 HIV-positive residents of the Southeastern United States. They examined the data to determine the frequency and types of incident stress reported in a 27-month period, and the predictors associated with three measures of incident stress: all stressful events, severe stressful events, and traumatic events, such as physical assault.

Among participants, 91 percent reported at least one stressful experience (median=3.5 experiences), and 10 percent reported traumatic stress in any given nine-month reporting period. Participants most frequently reported financial stressors.

"Greater emotional distress, substance use, and a higher number of baseline stressful experiences were significantly associated with reporting a greater number of incident stressful experiences and any traumatic experiences," the authors wrote. "Study results indicate that efforts are needed to identify individuals at risk for traumatic events and/or substantial stressors and to address the factors, including mental health and substance abuse, that contribute to these experiences."